What is in your products? Phthalates

Phthalates - Everyone in the general population is exposed to phthalates from one source or another. They are found in many products from soft plastics and air fresheners to shampoos and nail polish. Tests done by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found phthalates in ¾ of the 72 products they tested, including deodorants, fragrances, hair gels, mousses, hairsprays and hand and body lotions.

Phthalates are used to enhance fragrances to make them last longer and to denature alcohol. Research has shown that phthalates disrupt the hormonal system and interfere with reproduction. In a 2002 study in in Environmental Health Perspectives journal found that one common type of phthalate, diethyl phthalate (DEP) is damaging to the DNA of sperm in adult men at current levels of exposure. DNA damage to sperm can lead to infertility. DEP is a popular fragrance ingredient and the phthalate that is found in the highest levels in humans. Although some manufacturers have reduced their use of phthalates over the last 8 years, recent product tests found that many fragrances still contain high levels of DEP.

Another phthalate, dibutyl phthalate (DBP), has been a favourite ingredient in nail polishes, and US women of child-bearing age have been found to have high levels of DBP. As well, butyl benzyl phthalate (BBP), used to make nail polishes and lipsticks glossy, has been linked in animal studies to an increased risk of breast cancer. For several years, the European Union has banned DBP, BBP and DEHP (di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate) from use in cosmetics, but in Canada and the US there are no restrictions on any phthalates in cosmetics. In addition, phthalates are difficult to avoid. Except for nail polish, phthalates are not generally listed as ingredients on labels because Canada’s Cosmetic Regulations allow them to be included under the heading of “fragrance”.

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