The next time you head out to buy children’s toys, shampoos, makeup, or even food storage containers, make sure to carefully read the process of manufacturing. Chances are that you just picked up a fatally harmful product and used it not just on yourself but also on your child!
What can you read in this article?
- Study: High levels of “phthalates” found in urine, such people likely to die early
- Why are ‘phthalates’ added to products?
- Here’s how to identify phthalates in products
- How to avoid exposure to phthalates?
- Risks of exposure to phthalates to kids
Yes, you read that right.
According to a new study, the use of several consumer products including shampoo, makeup, children’s toys, perfume, and food storage containers leads to exposure to phthalates, which is a common class of chemicals that has been linked to premature deaths.
Study: High levels of “phthalates” found in urine, such people likely to die early
Scientists have always known that phthalates can interfere with important hormone functions. Even the smallest hormonal disruptions can lead to major effects, including reproductive and developmental issues, such as problems with the brain and also the immune system.
Several studies have also highlighted that phthalates exposure can lead to diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
Leonardo Trasande, from NYU Langone’s Center for the Investigation of Environmental Hazards, told CNN, “These chemicals have a rap sheet and when you look at the entire body of evidence, it provides a haunting pattern of concern.”
Data from more than 5,000 adults between the ages of 55 and 64 were analyzed. Researchers found that those with high levels of phthalates in their urine were likely to die earlier than expected, more specifically those who suffered from heart-related ailments.
The study pointed out that more than 91,000 to 107,000 American adults a year suffer from premature deaths, which have been linked to chemicals.
These early deaths cost an estimated $40 billion to $47 billion each year in lost economic productivity.
Why are ‘phthalates’ added to products?
Image courtesy: iStock
Phthalates are added to products to make them last longer. There are various children’s toys and plastic tubing that might contain the chemical so that kids find it hard to break.
Toiletries and cosmetics may include phthalates to maintain fragrance.
Here’s how to identify phthalates in products
Image courtesy: iStock
Trasande shared a list of tips with Insider for keeping phthalates out of your home:
- Always buy fresh or frozen vegetables and fruits. Try to avoid canned and processed versions.
- Choose unscented detergents and lotions.
- You can avoid all microwaving and machine dishwashing plastics
- Opt for cleaning supplies without any scents.
- In order to store food, always go for glass, ceramic, stainless steel, or wood.
- Try to always avoid air fresheners and all plastics that are labeled as No. 3, No. 6, and No. 7.
The American Chemistry Council called the study “demonstrably inaccurate” because it bunched all phthalates into a single group rather than looking at the differences in toxicity.
In response to this, Trasande said ACC’s reply was “similar to those used by the tobacco industry when studies showed evidence of harm.” He further said that the Council has not provided any evidence to contradict the study’s findings.
How to avoid exposure to phthalates?
Read labels: You should try to avoid using products that contain phthalates. Opt for brands that are committed to making products that are phthalate-free.
Here are the two most common products using phthalate
PVC products: Phthalates are usually added to PVC (vinyl) products to make them soft and flexible. If a plastic product is too soft, it mostly contains phthalates unless the label specifically mentions that it does not.
Personal Care Products: Nail polish, perfume, hair gel, shampoo, hair spray also contain this chemical. It helps to lubricate other substances in the formula and they have a fragrance. Under the current law, phthalates can be simply labeled as “fragrance,” even though they make up 20% or more of the product. There are many companies that have voluntarily removed phthalates from their products.
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Risks of exposure to phthalates to kids
Phthalates are a very common class chemical and it is nicknamed “everywhere chemicals.” The chemicals pose a threat if ingested, so kids are at an increased risk of exposure as they have the habit of putting their hands in their mouths.
So, parents of young kids, especially those under the age of three need to be extra cautious.
There are studies that have linked phthalates to allergies, male genital deformities, premature puberty, asthma, lowered IQ, and ADHD.
How to recognize plastic toys and containers containing phthalates?
Image courtesy: iStock
Remember that all plastics are not the same. To recognize plastic toys, bottles, food or even storage containers whether it contains phthalate compounds is to look for the number 3 inside the universal recycling symbol. It is usually molded into the plastic at the bottom of the product.
- You should avoid products with the number 3 which is placed with arrows and the letters “V” or “PVC” mentioned below it.
- Always select the products that have numbers 1,2, 4, and 5 within the arrows.
Let’s not forget that the effect of this chemical on humans has not been studied extensively. But it is believed to be an endocrine-disrupting chemical (EDC). It can alter the hormonal balance and potentially cause health issues, reproductive, developmental, and problems.
Pregnant mums, stay alert as exposure to phthalates can be dangerous. According to two Harvard studies, it can increase the chance of miscarriage as well as gestational diabetes, so be alert and choose your products wisely.