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Phthalates are a group of chemicals commonly added to plastics to increase flexibility and soften them. Several phthalates are also widely used in cosmetic products to stabilize fragrances. Recent studies conducted on animals have linked some phthalates to reproductive development and endocrine problems. Male babies appear to be at elevated risk of abnormal genital development and developing reproductive system complications. Plainly stated, products that are high in phthalate content should be avoided by both the baby and the pregnant mother. Why risk the health of your developing baby?

How do you and your baby avoid phthalates?
This is more difficult than it sounds as these chemicals are as prevalent as the number of plastics and fragrances around us. Diethyl phthalate (DEP) is often used as part of the “fragrance” in some products. Since DEP won’t be listed separately, you’re better off choosing personal care products, detergents, and cleansers that don’t have the word “fragrance” on the ingredients list, unless the fragrance is from essential oils. More on this below.

Fragrance Free
A product claiming to be “fragrance free” is not a guarantee that the product will be phthalate free. In this scenario, additional fragrances are often added to mask the fragrance given off by the original product. The claim “fragrance free” declares only that the product does not release an odor readily detectable by humans. Even products calling themselves “phthalate free” assures only that the product is free of some phthalates, not all.

Essential Oils
Essential oils are the best alternative to phthalate based fragrances. Essential oils, the pure essence of a plant, have been found to provide both psychological and physical benefits when used correctly. Look for products such as perfumes, cosmetics, bath products, flavoring for food and drink, and household cleaning products made with essential oils.

Reduce the Risk
As for the plastics, education of phthalates is the best defense.

 

  • Avoid plastic containers whenever possible and choose glass and stainless steel when available. When you do use plastics, never put the plastic in the microwave as the heat can leach dangerous chemicals from the plastic into your food.
  • Avoid giving your children vinyl (PVC) toys as it’s the phthalates that make toys soft. Choose wooden and other phthalate-free toys, especially during that age when they put everything in their mouths.
  • Avoid vinyl in products your baby is exposed to on a regular basis. This includes diapers, diaper covers, bibs, mattresses, waterproof mattress covers, changing table pads, and high chair covers. Excellent alternatives to these materials include 100% certified organic cotton and merino wool, which is soft and naturally waterproof.

    It’s extremely important to try to limit you and your baby’s exposure to phthalates. Use of soft pliable plastics and heavily fragranced perfumes, soaps, and lotions should be avoided whenever possible. Try to avoid products with manufactured scents and “squishy” plastics.