Toxicology Report: Phthalates


Phthalates. You may not know how to pronounce this word, but you should definitely know the meaning.

According to WebMD phthalates are "chemicals used to make products more pliable. They're found in toys, food packaging, and some beauty products, including nail polish, shampoo, and soap. Two studies suggest phthalate exposure during pregnancy may lead to abnormal development in male infants, including low hormone levels and small genital size. But the FDA says there is "not enough evidence to conclude that phthalates pose a health risk."

Because there is no FDA regulation on these products, many other health organizations are raising questions about the long-term effects of the use of phthalates, and whether or not they can trigger disease. For example, the Breast Cancer Action organization stated that phthalates "are also known to be hormone-mimicking chemicals, many of which disrupt normal hormonal processes, raising concern about their implications for increased breast cancer risk," and the Huffington Post reports that according to a study done at Uppsala University, "those with higher levels of phthalates in their blood were twice as likely to develop diabetes than those with lower levels of the plastic chemical in their blood." Finally, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information", shampoo, skin lotion, nail polish, and other personal care products contain chemical ingredients that lack safety data," and that "often [phthalates'] presence is not noted on labels."

How do you know if your beauty products contain phthalates? According to Breast Cancer Action, "All U.S. cosmetics and personal care products are required to list their ingredients in order of their relative quantity, with the most frequently used ingredient listed first. However, any ingredients used in fragrances or mixtures are considered trade secrets and are exempt from these requirements. Phthalates are frequent components of fragrances, which often contain dozens of chemicals. The entire mixture simply appears as “fragrance” on the ingredient list. Thus, a product may include phthalates that are not listed on its label."

So what can we do to avoid using phthalates if they are not labeled on products? First off, you can check and see if your beauty product company made Breast Cancer Action's list for Phthalate free cosmetics here. If it is not on the list, Breast Cancer Action recommends that you contact your beauty product company by email or phone and ask them if your particular product contains phthalates. And the moral of the story? Start being more aware of what you are putting on your body--the lack of regulation in beauty care products has plenty of loopholes that can put consumers at risk--educate yourself and be protected.