Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Phthalates - why do we care?

One would think that baby products, which include, lotions, shampoos, powder, etc, would be quite safe and harmless, but this is not the case. In a recent article published by the Pediatrics - Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics (PEDIATRICS Vol. 121 No. 2 February 2008, pp. e260-e268) the authors concluded “that reported use of infant lotion, infant powder, and infant shampoo were associated with increased infant urine concentrations of MEP, MMP, and MiBP, and this is strongest in younger infants. These findings suggest that dermal exposures may contribute significantly to phthalate body burden in this population. Young infants are more vulnerable to the potential adverse effects of phthalates given their increased dosage per unit body surface area, metabolic capabilities, and developing endocrine and reproductive systems.”
So, what are phthalates? Phthalates are polymers that are used to make plastics softer and are used in the cosmetic and personal care industry as a fixative to hold fragrances. That lingering scent you smell after applying scented lotions to your baby contains phthalates unless the lotion is scented with true essential oils. Just think of all the products that are used daily that are scented; washing powders, air fresheners, candles, hairspray, furniture polish, and the list goes on and on. We are constantly exposed to phthalates. In a 2002 study by The Center for Disease Control and Prevention revealed metabolized levels of phthalates in the urine of test participants. In a 2002 report by The Environmental and Health Working Group stated phthalates were found in 72% of beauty products.
The Food and Drug Administration requires all ingredients to be listed on a product’s label; however a fragrance ingredient list does not have to be listed, only the term “fragrances”. It can take up to 200 different ingredients to make a fragrance and if a person has an allergic reaction to a product it is usually due to a chemical in this so called fragrance. At present the FDA “has no compelling evidence that phthalates pose a safety risk when used in cosmetics.” But, on the other hand who wants phthalates in their urine?
So, what harm can phthalates do? Phthalates are synthetic, man-made chemicals and have potential toxic effects to the developing endocrine and reproductive systems, in other words they are considered as endocrine disruptors because they can mimic the body’s hormones. These chemicals are found in plastic products such as children's toys, lubricants, infant care products, cosmetics, and personal care products, and are known to have “developmental and reproductive toxicants in animal models and the immature male reproductive tract is particularly sensitive.”
How can children and parents be protected from phthalates? By purchasing products that are fragrance free or those products that are scented with true essential oils and products listed as phthalate free. The state of California will pass a bill banning phthalates in 2009, hopefully the rest of the US will follow suit.
On a personal note, while visiting a friend I picked up a bottle of lotion label “All Natural”, I read the ingredient list and the only recognizable ingredient was water, the rest was a list of manmade chemicals that I couldn’t pronounce so I swiftly pulled out a bottle of Sum-Bo-Shine Organic Baby Lotion which is not only phthalate free but paraben free as well, but more on that subject later.
Carolyn Deal

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