Enviroblog’s Brush Up on Phthalates

By Kristie Turck •  Published 05/06/08 •  3 min read

Last updated on May 4th, 2009 at 02:57 pm

One of my favorite bloggers, Amanda, who blogs on EWG’s Enviroblog posted a handy crash course on phthalates. In short, phthalates are endocrine disruptors which are linked to reproductive and genital abnormalities. Companies use them to soften plastics, and it’s also used to bind fragrance to a product. You can find them in many household products such as nail polish, skin care, toys, and air fresheners. Amanda has posted a quick list of what to avoid to limit your exposure to phthalates:

Avoid these, and you’ll also be avoiding phthalates:
1. Nail polish: Dibutyl phthalate is often used to make nail polish chip-resistant. Look for it on the ingredients list, where it may be shortened to DBP.
2. Plastics in the kitchen: Take a critical eye to your cupboards. Phthalates may be more likely to leach out of plastic when it’s heated, so avoid cooking or microwaving in plastic.
3. Vinyl toys: Phthalates are what make vinyl (PVC) toys soft, so don’t give them to children. Opt instead for wooden and other phthalate-free toys, especially during that age when they put everything in their mouths!
4. Paint: Paints and other hobby products may contain phthalates as solvents, so be sure to use them in a well-ventilated space.
5. Fragrance: Diethyl phthalate (DEP) is often used as part of the “fragrance” in some products. Since DEP won’t be listed separately, you’re better off choosing personal care products, detergents, and cleansers that don’t have the word “fragrance” on the ingredients list.
6. Vinyl: Vinyl shows up in a lot of different products; lawn furniture, garden hoses, building materials, and items of clothing (like some raincoats) are often sources. Aside from carefully choosing materials when you’re making purchases, there is one easy change you can make: switch to a non-vinyl shower curtain. That “new shower curtain” smell (you know the one) is a result of chemical off-gassing, and it means your shower curtain is a source of phthalates in your home.
7. Air Fresheners: Just like fragrances in personal care products, most air fresheners contain phthalates.

Sounds like a pain. But there are phthalate free alternatives to ALL of these items so it’s totally do-able. here are a few examples:

DBP Free Nail Polish: Nicole by OPI doesn’t contain DBP, Toluene or Formaldehyde. They have a large array of colors and they go on well. No need to go bare nailed anymore. They are available at Target and other beauty stores.

Vinyl Free Shower Curtains: Instead of a vinyl curtain liner, try a fabric one. They make some good mildew resistant ones which you can find at most super stores. Or you can buy them on Amazon… this one is 100% polyester. Not the most fabulous material on the planet but is Phthalate and Vinyl free.

Air Fresheners we covered once before but just as a refresher, ditch the Glade and opt for plants (lucky bamboo is a great indoor air cleaner) or try soy candles.