Oh how we love our plastic! Nothing has shaped the modern world quite like it. And it’s virtually everywhere you look: vinyl flooring, electrical conduit, fencing, water pipes, windows, shower curtains, decking and wallpaper.
Polyvinyl chloride is one of those materials used for its durability and cost effectiveness. It’s also very low maintenance and can be made softer and more bendable. PVC is now a popular choice for outdoor furniture, upholstery and even clothing.
But here’s something you may not know. In order for PVC to be made softer and more flexible, phthalates must be added to the chemical equation. The problem with that is phthalates cannot chemically bind to the plastics they are added to. This means they are being released into either the water or air over time.
What does that mean to you? According to a report from Appalachian State University, phthalates can cause the following issues:
- Blocking male hormones and interfering with proper male development
- Endocrine disruption, which interferes with brain function
- May be linked to autism, breast cancer and testicular cancer
- Allergies and asthma
Even if you don’t have vinyl floors, decking or a fence, you are likely still coming into contact with these phthalates daily. Phthalates are in cell phone accessories, backpacks, plastic food containers, shampoo, cosmetics, and other personal care items. Until recently, they were even found in baby toys.
If you are the parent of a baby or toddler, or expecting a baby yourself, here are things you can do to avoid the effects of phthalates:
- Do not heat your food in plastic containers
- Try to use organic personal care items, especially for babies!
- Be wary of the term fragrance, which could include a combination of phthalates
- Speaking of fragrance, stop using it on your body and in your home
- If you’re going to use hairspray (liquid plastic for the hair), buy it at the health food store
- Do NOT use insect repellents which contain several forms of harmful phthalates
- Try a shower curtain made of cotton. “New shower curtain smell” comes from phthalates
- Watch what kind of baby toys and teethers you are buying
- Don’t drink from plastic water bottles – use glass instead
I’m a fan of innovation and inventions that can make our lives better. But these types of products, while convenient and cost effective, do come at a price. While we can’t live in a modern world and expect to be free from every germ known to man, there are things we can do to reduce our exposure and ultimately our risk.