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Phthalates Used in Plastics and Beauty Products Can Weaken Bones

Even the Quintessential Bath Toys have PhthalatesWe have been educating concerned parents about the effects of Phthalates here at Eco Child’s Play. Well studies now show that it is more harmful than what scientists have originally thought. According to Environmental Health News, Phthalates may soften and even weaken bones. “Phthalates used in plastics and beauty products can trigger bone cell death, finds this animal study. Phthalates provoke DNA damage that can lead to bone cell death”, researchers said in a study published by Journal of Cellular Biochemistry.

This study shows how a low-dose exposure to two types of commonly found phthalates has a profound effect on bone cells. Based on the results, long-term exposure to phthalates could have devastating effects on developing bones in young bodies and accelerate deterioration in aging bones. Estrogen deficiency is responsible for a number of bone diseases such as osteoporosis. For this reason, many are concerned about the effects of phthalate exposure on bone health.

Phthalates are plasticizers which are used to add flexibility to plastics. It has been the common ingredient in everyday items like food containers, baby bottles, and packaging for beauty products. Known as as a reproductive or endocrine disruptor; it is slowly being phased out by United States and European nations, but unfortunately, not quickly enough. Even more dangerous is the fact that Phthalates are used in a large variety of products including children’s toys. “Phthalate use is widespread. Phthalates are commonly found in household items made of plastics and in health and beauty products.  Some products with phthalates include toys, vinyl flooring, plastic medical tubing, shower curtains and personal care products such as shampoo, hair sprays and detergents.”

With it being such an everyday occurance; how do you keep you and your family away from this toxic compound? First is learn to read the labels. Here’s some tips from the Daily Green.

  • Read the ingredients. According to the organization Pollution in People, you can identify phthalates in some products by their chemical names, or abbreviations:
    • DBP (di-n-butyl phthalate) and DEP (diethyl phthalate) are often found in personal care products, including nail polishes, deodorants, perfumes and cologne, aftershave lotions, shampoos, hair gels and hand lotions. (BzBP, see below, is also in some personal care products.)
    • DEHP (di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate or Bis (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate) is used in PVC plastics, including some medical devices.
    • BzBP (benzylbutyl phthalate) is used in some flooring, car products and personal care products.
    • DMP (dimethyl phthalate) is used in insect repellent and some plastics (as well as rocket propellant).
  • Be wary of the term “fragrance,” which is used to denote a combination of compounds, possibly including phthatates, which are a subject of recent concern because of studies showing they can mimic certain hormones.
  • Choose plastics with the recycling code 1, 2 or 5. Recycling codes 3 and 7 are more likely to contain bisphenol A or phthalates.

I recommend that you shop at Organic or Health food stores for essential beauty products. Most of the beauty care line that is carried in these store typically will not have Pthalates and offer more natural ingredients. They do not need to be expensive. Whole Foods has a private line called 365 Everyday Value which offers entire personal care line that’s under $5. We have used their product and it’s a great basic staple to have.

In regards to toys, stay away from plastics in general.Here’s another scary fact from Pollution in People:

In plastic, phthalates can make up as much as 80% of a product. Since they’re not chemically bound to the plastic, up to 50% of the phthalates can leach from a product over its lifetime (DiGangi 2002).

I know it’s nearly impossible to get away from plastics since it has become impermeated into our lives, but when it comes to toys; you do have choices. Choose quality over quantity. Instead of buying tons of plastic toys. Invest in couple of toys made of natural resources like wooden blocks or companies that have better quality control. There are many online toy shops that carefully pick non-toxic and natural products so you don’t have to do the legwork. Check out Planet Happy Kids, Hazlenut Kids, Soft Landing has extensive baby items that are safe and non-toxic {and she was the original source for story} and But don’t sweat it if you can’t be ALL natural. Plastic does have its places in limited amounts. It’s impossible to eradicate it completely. Believe me; I know. Just remember one thing, Plastics marked with the #3 symbol contain PVC.

Glass is making its comeback and rightly so. Pyrex glasses are relatively affordable and it’s probably a better option than plastics. Generally it’s best to avoid anything “PVC” I find fabric shower curtains much aesthetically pleasing than the plastic ones and they don’t give off that awful smell.

Contact your rep and push for legislature that will ban these toxic compounds out of our lives for good.

Image source: [martin]

[This post was written by Susie Kim.]


  1. Thank you for your post related to the hazards of plastics. I share in your concern. In fact, I believe the situation is much worse than we can possibly know and it may someday that we begin to connect the dots and realize that even minimal exposure to plastics has caused long term, irreversible damage. I have a link that you might be interested in from a CNN report that went largely unnoticed but should have been shouted from the rooftops. If you’re interested I can send you the link. I have a lot of information on the topic and I am happy to share.

    Look forward to hearing from you. Please contact me at your earliest convenience at tdeann24@gmail.com. Thank you.

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