Are Phthalates a Ban or Boon?- Uses, Risks, FDA Verbiage and Tips to Live Phthalate Free

Continuation from the previous post
Are phthalates a ban or boon in your life? Let’s delve in and find there widespread uses, exposure and associated risks. Here are tips on how to live a life without phthalates.

You may ask me, Why would anyone need to know about phthalate (Thal-ate)?.

Well, you want to know know them or not, they have become inseparable from your life. We live with them, drink them and breath them. We don’t see them. In most cases we have accepted them by getting used to for conveniences they offer.

A large percentage of Americans have tested for the presence of phthalate in their body.

Are they ubiquitous poison? If not,why there are universal attempts to get rid of them after seven decades of sharing life with them?

There are number of animal studies which shows evidence of health risks associated with phthalate exposure. There are fewer human study but more needs to be done to get a clear picture about health risks of phthalate contamination.

Phthalates Everywhere

Are phthalates a Boon or Ban?-phthalates-Everywhere


 What is Phthalates Used for?

Should I rather say where it is not used!

They are used  in house hold items, medical industry for making equipments, as solvents in chemical industry etc.

Some phthalates are used as solvents (dissolving agents) for other materials such as making perfumes. They are used in hundreds of products, such as

  • vinyl flooring

  • adhesives

  • detergents

  • lubricating oils

  • automotive plastics

  • Polyethylene bags to shop and carry stuff

  • clothes (raincoats)

  • personal-care products (soaps, shampoos, hair sprays, and nail polishes).

Phthalates are used widely in polyvinyl chloride plastics as additives which are used to make products such as

  • plastic packaging film and sheets,

  • garden hoses

  • inflatable children toys

  • blood-storage containers

  • medical tubing

  • equipment for fire safety

  • Equipments for timed release of pharmaceuticals

Advantages of Using Plastic

Plastics provide products that are

  • cheaper

  • lighter

  • stronger

  • safer to fire

  • more durable and versatile

Plastics are malleable and can be designed

  • To keep our foods fresher for longer periods of time,

  • To provide therapeutic benefits through timed-release of pharmaceuticals in appropriate gadgets and other medical applications.

  • To prevent electronics and other household items from starting or spreading fires.

What are the Concerns Around Plastics (Phthalates Used as Additive)?

Formation and Waste Disposal of plastics Produce Toxins Impacting Our Health

  • They are responsible for climate change. Disruption of ozone layer- that protects us from harmful rays of sunhh by

  • They pollute ocean water.

  • The dusts can change the quality of air

  • They create litter in our cities and rural areas.

  • We don’t live without touching plastics even a day which may have already been contaminated with toxins.

Toxic pollutants in plastic during its preparation as well as burning for waste disposal produces multitudes of toxins liberated contaminating human body.

How Do You Get Exposed to Phthalate?

  • Eating and drinking in plastic containers made up of phthalates.

  • You may breath in vapors and dust from air, from burning of plastics wastes in open air, water and food.

  • Exposure to building construction and coloring.

  • From cosmetics, shampooed, lipsticks, nail polish.

  • Putting and carrying hot foods in plastic bags (popular in India to carry the hot morning breakfast from restaurants for family.

  • Women have higher levels of urinary phthalate metabolites than men for those phthalates that are used in soaps, body washes, shampoos, cosmetics, and similar personal care products.

After entering human body, phthalates break down and get released via urine. It takes 2 days. However, some tissues are left contaminated consequences on your health.

Be safe than sorry. Avoid/eliminate exposure to plastic to help your health to be healthier.

Health Impact of Plastics: How Detrimental Are Phthalate?

  • Your body exposure to Burning of plastic wastes increase the risk of heart disease, aggravates respiratory ailments such as asthma and emphysema and cause rashes, nausea or headaches, and damages the nervous system

  • Adverse reproductive outcomes

  • It has been shown to be a teratogen

  • Exposure to phthalate can result in damaging kidney, lungs and liver.

  • Asthma and allergy

  • Autism trait seems to be related to plastic exposure.

  • Early puberty

  • Di (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate metabolites may alter thyroid hormone levels in men

  • Exposure of phthalate lead to excess sebum production causing acne..

  • Phthalates can easily form free oxygen radical which may also be responsible for its toxicity. Radicals can react with DNA and disrupt the structure. In an in vitro  expt in rats, dialkyl phthalates was found to cause liver toxicity.

FDA on Phthalate Toxicity


“At the present time, FDA does not have evidence that phthalates as used in cosmetics pose a safety risk. If we determine that a health hazard exists, we will advise the industry and the public, and will take action within the scope of our authority under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act in protecting the health and welfare of consumers.”

Under the authority of the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (FPLA), FDA requires an ingredient declaration on cosmetic products sold at the retail level to consumers. Consumers can tell whether some products contain phthalates by reading the ingredient declaration on the labels of such products.

How To Identify Phthalate Contamination

Research has shown: Among 5 phthalates tested, di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP) showed the highest skin reservoir. Only diethyl phthalate (DEP) and dibutyl phthalate (DBP) could penetrate across skin.

Check your beauty care product label for phthalate warnings.

Look at the bottom of the bottle and avoid those. With 1, 3, 5 they are contaminated with phthalate.The even numbers 2, 4.6 are less likely to have contamination and you could use them.

Tips to Avoid/ Eliminate Phthalates from Life

  • Replace food and storage containers made up of plastic with glass, porcelain, clay and bamboo jars.

  • Inspect the label for plastic contamination.  At times, the labels are in really small sized letters. Be careful. May be you can use a magnifying glass (carry them in your pocket while shopping). Avoid  food containing phthalate by looking at the label. The manufacturer are not forced to label the product with phthalates though. There will always be a replacements.

  • Pick and choose your cosmetics wisely. The labels are sometimes written in very small sized alphabets and hard to read. There are organic and cruelty free products you always can replace with

  • Do not warm your food inside plastic container in a microwave it. People have been so used to it. Dislodge the food to a Pyrex glass container before you warm in microwave.

  • Use bags made up of jute or cotton to get your  vegetables right in. Avoid plastic.

  • Stay away from plastic burning sites. Often burning is used to destroy plastic The vapors are bad for Lungs ad really harmful for children.

  • Choose organic cleaning products instead. Your detergents can easily be contaminated.

  • With a lot of house construction, coloring, coating the smell of chemicals can easily get inside you. Find your way out if possible.

  • Filter your drinking water before use. Put them in clay or brass pots for drinking and cooking.

  • The meat and fatty products can be contaminated with plastic easily. Carry your own non-plastic pots to get them and freeze them as well if necessary.

  • Stay away from fried fast food. The oil used has a good chance of contamination with plastic.

  • Check your beverage for phthalate contamination before buying. Again the manufacture are not required to put a label but the credible ones do.

  • Breath out air from your body when exposed and death in god air. Do it few times.

  • Use a thin bamboo mat on your bed or bamboo bedsheets and covers.

  • Segregate and dispose plastic in  the designated place to be picked by the municipality.

  • Choose your medical equipment choose phthalate free if available.

  • In parties, gathering pick disposables without using plastics. Now bamboo, sugar cane and khali leaves can be ideal for replacing plastics.

There are natural cleaners, beauty and health care products available in the market. Plastic replacement materials are being developed. Be in the know.


Phthalates needs to be replaced from our life.it is possible to avoid but needs your persistent effort. The ease at which it entered to our life, may not be possible to discard them out that easily.  Keep your ear out and be in the loop to know the latest about plastic replacements.

Anusuya Choudhury

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