Phthalates are a group of chemicals that are added to many commonly used products to make them more flexible. These added phthalates also make products more durable (breakage resistant is after all a very desirable quality in baby products) and transparent or clear.
Where are phthalates to be found?
Phthalates are to be found in a number of commonly used household products such as floor tiles, food and other packaging material, cleaning material, paints, shower curtains, vinyl upholstery, insect repellants and car products.
Even personal care items such as deodorants and perfumes, make up, soap, moisturizers, nail polish and hair spray could have phthalates included. They are included in a lot of plastic products.
In baby products as well, phthalates can be found in teethers, pacifiers, baby bottles, toys and a number of other things.
How do they get into the baby’s system?
Phthalates can get concentrated in the dust and the air that surrounds us indoors, or they can leech into the foods and drinks that we consume.
Phthalate exposure can occur through direct exposure, through leeching or environmental contamination. By inhalation or through food such as milk, butter and meats, the phthalates are able to get into the system. Also in pregnant women, it is found that phthalates can cross the placental barrier and therefore get into the system of the fetus.
Why or how are phthalates harmful?
Phthalates are known as ‘endocrine disruptors’. They are known to mimic the effect of hormones in the body and may be the underlying causes for a number of health problems, particularly in children, some experts believe. Birth defects and neurological problems have been seen to result in animal trials.
The reasons that children are seen as being more vulnerable are their size and their behavior. Also the fact that they are growing makes them more sensitive to the effects of phthalates.
How can we look for phthalates in baby products?
- Look for the term ‘fragrance’ in the list of ingredients, these could likely contain phthalates.
- If a product has recycling codes 3 and 7 it is more likely to have phthalates. If on the other hand the recycling codes are 1, 2 and 5, these are likelier to be safe.
- Also look for phthalates in products being used by the expectant mother as well so that contamination does not occur before the baby’s birth.