Phthalates are plasticizers, chemicals that make our pipes more flexible and our upholstery more comfortable.
But phthalates are also one of about 70 suspected endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) present in products ranging from makeup to detergents to children's toys. EDCs are now present in the bodies of every man, woman, child and fetus in the United States.
Pioneer zoologist Theo Colborn, in her book Our Stolen Future, reported countless examples of reproductive disorders among wildlife. Colborn traced the disorders to chemical exposure, and suggested that EDCs profoundly affect the endocrine system by mimicking natural hormones and blocking their uptake to the receptor sites.
This can disrupt everything from development and behavior to reproduction and immunity.
Even the tiniest hormone variation at certain critical points in fetal development can affect a child's future health. Two years ago, a study showed that pregnant women with higher urine concentrations of phthalates were more likely to give birth to sons with incomplete male genital development, a disorder that previously had been seen only in lab rats.
In December 2006, San Francisco became the first city in the nation to ban baby products containing certain levels of phthalates.Common Ground March 2007
I've previously reported on plastics' ability to make you sick by mimicking or blocking sex hormones, causing disruption of your endocrine system. And right at the top of this list of these harmful chemicals are phthalates.
Much of this interesting article delves into the studies, some of which we have shared with on the site in the past, showing how exposure to these harmful chemicals can hasten puberty in children.
Plastics may indeed have been the "wave of the future" for industry some 40 years ago, but we're paying for it dearly with our health today. Your body must constantly endure these exposures to petroleum-based industrial chemicals contained in things most people take for granted, like bottled water and cosmetics.
What should really alarm you is that the EPA has had everything in place to develop a screening program for endocrine disruptors since 1996, thanks to the Food Quality Protection Act -- considered for its time to be the most ambitious toxicology program ever conceived -- yet not one test has been conducted to date.
In the meantime, the EPA keeps on approving chemicals at a clip of some 700 annually, relying heavily on the manufacturers that make them to be completely honest about their safety.
Particularly vulnerable are your children, who are exposed to plastics in the hospital and through baby bottles and toys. One of the simple ways you can regularly avoid some plastics is by storing your food in glass. Personally I use Ball jars and a Food Saver attachment that vacuums out the air in the jar. This setup, in my mind, is about as good as you can get to store your food.
In shopping for cosmetics you will want to find varieties made without plasticizers and paraben, and will also want to avoid flame retardants found in furniture and mattresses.
Please don't wait for the EPA to get around to creating a testing protocol, as that is still at least two years away from becoming a reality. Start avoiding environmental toxins today by following the common-sense, easy-to-follow tips I posted last year.
The city of San Francisco has adopted the right approach, following the lead of the European Union, which requires testing before approval along the lines of the Precautionary Principle. This is the seemingly obvious idea that new chemicals should be proven completely safe before they are introduced into the general populace.
The United States tends to take an "innocent until proven guilty" approach to chemicals instead, approving them wholesale and only backtracking when one turns out to be dangerous. That may be a good principle to use in court trials, but when it comes to industrial chemicals, it's nothing more than a dangerous game being played with everyone's health.
CDC Report States Exposure To Chemicals Higher Than Expected
Plastic Exposure May Lead to Premature Delivery
How to Avoid the Top 10 Most Common Toxins