EDC’s (Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals) are everywhere in our environment. They are being used more and more each day in our household products. According to the World Health Organization, environmental toxins account for nearly 24 percent of all diseases. EDC’s have been shown to be linked to cancer, developmental delays, obesity, diabetes and reproductive issues. Today we will take a closer look at phthalates, which are plasticizers known as the worst offenders and also have a link to breast cancer risk.
Phthalates are a family of man-made compounds used to manufacture plastics (PVCs), solvents, and personal care products. They are oily, colorless, and odorless liquids that increase the lifespan or durability and flexibility of plastics. Most plasticizers appear to act by interfering with the functioning of various hormone systems, but some phthalates have wider pathways of disruption. The history of using plasticizers such as phthalates dates back to the 1920’s and 1930’s.
They can be found in everyday products we use on a daily basis such as:
Plastic shower curtains
Plastic food containers
And they are also found in some personal care products you might not suspect:
It’s important to be aware of your exposure to phthalates. They do not chemically bind to the polymers to which they are added. Therefore, they can leach into the environment or be absorbed into your body through what you drink or through products you put on your skin. As consumers, we must be careful what we put on our bodies. Our skin is like a sponge. Generally 60 to 70 percent of what we put on our skin gets into our blood system through capillaries under our dermal layer.
To reduce our exposure to phthalates, we must avoid plastic wraps, containers, plastic toys and plastics with recycling label #3. See my previous blog posts on Understanding the Resin Codes and Plastics: It’s not Just About Marine life!
We must be careful what containers we drink from. Glass, steel and ceramic drinking containers are best. Also avoid personal care products that say “fragrance,” which is sometimes a hidden word for phthalates. We must learn to read the labels of all of our personal care products.
In the past 20 years, I’ve become more careful about what I put in my body. Yet, I never thought about what I was putting on my skin. I now realize that what I put on my skin is directly absorbed into my body and can be just as important as the food choices we make. This is why doctors sometimes prescribe medicines and patches to administer medications through your skin. I also never considered the containers I was drinking from, eating on, or storing my food in. After my cancer journey, I’ve looked at everything and made significant changes. See my blog post on Reducing Plastics –Do as the Europeans Do.
When phthalates are absorbed into your body through ingestion, inhalation, or your skin, most of them are hopefully broken down into metabolites that are excreted in urine, feces, semen, and saliva. But some are not. Recently, both breastcancer.org and the American Cancer Society have expressed concern about the possible link between hormone driven cancers and EDC’s. Although the research is often conflicting, more research needs to be done.
Like other EDCs, phthalates have been shown to interfere with normal hormone processes that are responsible for the maintenance of homeostasis in the body. They can either mimic or block female hormones, and can bind to the estrogen receptor. Although some research shows harmful effects of phthalates on the endocrine system, other research seems to indicate little to none. But there is enough out there to cause me to use caution and avoid using these chemicals as much a possible. We must also consider that we are exposed to a multitude of phthalates and EDC’s on a daily basis. This alone should cause us to take a closer look at what phthalates may be doing to our bodies.
In the next weeks, we’ll be looking at other endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDC’s). Phthalates is only one of many we should have concerns about. Next week, we’ll look at parabens.
As you begin to examine the labels of products you are eating and using on your skin, how many products containing phthalates are you finding? And what options can you share for reducing your exposure?
For Your Health,