Recently a study found that about 75% of children’s school supplies contain high levels of potentially toxic phthalates. The study, Hidden Hazards: Toxic Chemicals Inside Children’s Vinyl Back-to-School Supplies, was published on the CHEJ website.

It is a well-known fact that phthalates can cause female fertility problems.  This chemical is present in most of your personal care products such as perfumes, nail polish, shampoos, make-up, hair products and household products such as air fresheners, dryer sheets and laundry soaps. Phthalates are also used in fragrances of all kinds to enhance and prolong the power of the scent, hence their concentrated presence in perfumes and body sprays. Phthalates also have a softening effect, they help your hairspray hold your hair without it becoming stiff as a board, extend the life and durability of nail polish and help carry the scent of air fresheners through your house or car.   This chemical is also found in plastics, adhesives, electronics, toys, packaging and even some medication coatings. Phthalates are a class of chemical used to soften vinyl plastic.  They are hazardous at even low levels of exposure. Phthalates have been linked to birth defects, early puberty, infertility, asthma, ADHD, obesity, endometriosis, and diabetes.

Previous research suggests phthalates are endocrine-disrupting chemicals that may alter hormone regulation and other mechanisms in the body. A recent study tied phthalates to an increased risk of diabetes for some women.

High levels of phthalate exposure through the use of plastic medical devices for feeding, medicating and assisting the breathing of newborn infants, may affect the male reproductive development, according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

The problem is that phthalates are absorbed into to your body through your skin, inhaled from the air and ingested through foods and they can disrupt the hormones required for good fertility. Any product that you use with the word fragrance on the ingredient label is probably a phthalate unless the product is 100 percent organic or labeled as phthalate free.

Phthalates are known to be highly disruptive to male fertility but fewer studies have looked at female fertility although the studies that have been done show considerable fertility impairment.   In 2005, a study showed that phthalates present in pregnant women result in their boy babies having smaller less developed genitals. There is further concern that, as the boys grow up, they may be affected with late puberty, lower testosterone levels and sperm count, and be more susceptible to testicular cancer.

Both in Europe and the United States, efforts have been made to explore the possibility of bans on toys intended for infants that contained phthalates. This set in motion fierce industry lobbying from the United States to head off the ban, an effort that not only proved unsuccessful ultimately in Europe, but one that was matched in the US by a call by the Consumer Products Safety Commission for a voluntary phase-out by US manufacturers, not only from pacifiers and toys but also from certain medical devices. Interestingly, several large US toy manufacturers, including Disney and Mattel, made public commitments supporting the phase out of this chemical.

The debate heated up further in the US when an industry PR firm that masquerades as a public health organization, the American Council on Science and Health, put together a panel to review the safety of phthalates. Headed by retired Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, the panel ultimately issued a flawed report that concluded phthalates were safe. Their report failed to consider several key recent publications and misrepresented another, citing the latter as stating that no kidney damage was caused when in fact the research did not assess kidney damage.

In conclusion, this inaccurate report, lead to the acceptance and allowance of the continued use of this toxic substance in the United States.  Given the widespread use of this substance, it is highly doubtful that it will ever be highly regulated or outlawed by any governmental agencies.  Therefore, in order to protect yourself, your future and present offspring, you must look for things that are labeled “phthalate free.”  Unfortunately, the availability and accessibility of these types of products is not widespread.

Some companies that produce phthalate–laden beauty products also make products free of phthalates. For example:

  • Unilever make hair sprays with (Aqua Net and Salon Selectives) and without phthalates (Thermasilk and Suave).
  • L’Oreal markets Jet Set nail polish without DBP but puts the phthalate in its Maybelline brand.
  • Procter and Gamble sells Secret Sheer Dry deodorant with phthalates and Secret Platinum Protection Ambition Scent without phthalates.
  • Louis Vuitton has taken phthalates out of its Urban Decay nail polish but still has these dangerous chemicals in Christian Dior nail polish and the fragrance Poison

This article is intended to make you more aware of yet another toxic substance that is present in our daily environment which highly impacts our reproductive capability.  More information on this topic can be found on the environmental working group website,

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