Of all the toxins we are exposed to in our homes and communities, phthalates (pronounced "THAL-ates") may be the most insidious. Despite the increasing evidence on the dangers the general population continues to be oblivious to the toxins lurking in the plastics and fragrances in their homes. Like BPA and Parabens, there are currently no regulations in the US to protect us from manufacturers ignoring the dangers.
Consumers in the US have to start insisting on safer products for our families. It's been estimated about a billion pounds of phthalates are produced worldwide annually. Wow. It's hard to comprehend how they can be avoided. It's currently up to us to do the hard work to find alternative products. Hard, because phthalates are in so many things.
Phthalates are in our bodies, our homes and our water. They are used as plasticizers to soften plastics, especially PVC plastic (#3) and to make nail polish flexible and chip-resistant. They're in shower curtains and hair spray, soft vinyl toys for pour children and pets. They are also used in body products to make the product penetrate the skin more easily, and in fragrances, hand creams, deodorants, laundry detergents perfumes and colognes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) measured human phthalate exposures in 2000 and found high levels of phthalates in every single one of the 289 people tested (Blount 2000).
What do they do? One effect is the disruption of the production of testosterone. They block male hormones responsible for making a male into a male. A common pthalate, dibutyl pthalate has been proven in animal studies to contribute to low sperm count, and birth defects of the testicles and penis. Another, diethyl phthalate (DEP), has been correlated by Harvard researchers with DNA damage in male sperm which can lead to infertility or birth defects. DEP is common in cosmetics, colognes and perfumes.
Studies have not been conclusive, but as a hormone disrupter phthalates (along with parabens and other toxic chemicals) are suspect in estrogen positive breast tumors. Part of the problem in conducting definitive studies is the lack of full disclosure of ingredients in the US. Products have to independently tested first to determine what's in them.
What You Can Do:
~ Stop using products with fragrances other than certified natural organic oils (although you should be aware some folks are sensitive to these as well). Get rid of the dryer sheets, perfumes, scented hand lotions and diffusers. Here's a good series of updated articles on the health hazards of fragrances in our cleaning and body products.
~ When you have to purchase plastic, look for plastic products such as toys and Shower Curtain Liners that are PVC and phthalate free. If they have that "plastic smell", don't buy them.
~ Purchase natural and organic body products and cosmetics. Check the ingredients at the Cosmetics Database. Note that starting in June 2011, Whole Foods will not keep any cosmetic or body product on their shelves that claims to be organic if it isn't actually certified as organic.
~ Read labels. Many won't tell you all the ingredients, but some will. Find safer products on one of the many sites now available, a few are listed here for you:
EWG's Skin Deep and the Cosmetics Database.com
Dangerous Household Chemicals
~ Support legislation to get our products regulated. There are currently two in the US, HR 5820, The Toxic Chemicals Safety Act of 2013 (TCSA) and the Kid Safe Chemical Act. Find the name and addresses of your representatives, and write to them.
~Keep up with the issues, some good sites are:
The Alliance for a HealthyTomorrow
Teens Turning Green
Not a Guinea Pig
Campaign for Safe Cosmetics
National Resources Defense Council
Washington Toxics Coalition
Health and Environmental Alliance
Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families
~ Let companies know why you aren't purchasing their products. Comment on their products on their websites. This is a great way to flex your consumer muscle.
~ Good books on the subject include:
Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry
Our Stolen Future: Are We Threatening Our Fertility, Intelligence, and Survival?--A Scientific Detective Story
The Body Toxic: How the Hazardous Chemistry of Everyday Things Threatens Our Health and Well-Being
I'll keep you "posted".
Summer! Summer means heat, water and fun in the sun. It can also mean sunburn. In my quest to find the best sunblocks (many are not as safe as they appear) I came across references to the Cabbage Palm Fern. I did some research and it seemed there might actually be something to the claims of sun protection in a pill.
The Cabbage Palm Fern, Polypodium leucotomos, is a plant native to Central America. Several studies have been done that have shown it to have a slight protective effect against UV damage. The studies to date have not been double-blind studies (the participants knew they were receiving the treatment which could create a placebo effect), nor have they been extensive, but they seem to indicate the root of this fern may indeed help to protect our skin from sun damage.
There are two brands currently available, Heliocare and Life Extension's FernBlock . Neither should be relied on to provide full sun protection and should be used as a supplement to a good sunscreen. Personally, I wouldn't be without it.
Last year I spent a week in the Tucson sun;113 degree Tucson sun! I was naturally worried about my sun exposure so I took 2 of Life Extensions Fernblock every morning in addition to using the Nutri-Lift sunscreen mentioned below in my original post. I did tan, but I was truly amazed that despite the hot sun I never burned. Of course this is no guarantee the combination will work the same for everyone, but since I'm on the fair side I'm sold on the combination for my sun protection.
When I know I'm going to be in the sun I use sunscreen on everything but my face. My sunscreen of choice is Nutri-Lift's photo stable Maximum Sun Protection. What about the face you ask? I can't stand sunscreen on my face, and with skin that tends toward oily, my face doesn't like it either, so I use a foundation with sunscreen and top it off with a powdered sunscreen. Two great organic foundations that include sunscreen are Nutra-lift Flawless Foundation, which has an SPF of 18, and Jane Iredale's Moisture Tint, with an SPF of 15. I've tried them both and found them to be lightweight and blend well.
I've saved the best for last, my very favorite sunscreen product is Jane Iredale's Powder Me SPF (link below). It's a mineral powder that comes in three shades, including translucent. The company claims you can even sprinkle it on your scalp for coverage on your head. Wouldn't that be wonderful to protect the part where we tend to get burnt!
One last note about your summer skin protection arsenal, lycopene-rich fruits and veggies such as watermelon, guava, pink grapefruit, and tomatoes also seem to reduce skin damage from UVA and UVB rays. A 2010 study published in the British Journal of Dermatology looked at women whose diets included 16 milligrams of lycopene every day (the amount in about two cups of diced watermelon) for 12 weeks . The results were a reduction in the damaging effects of UVA and UVB rays, including sunburns and cellular damage.
Here's my article on Sun Protection for Children, in case you missed it.
NaturalJersey.com was created in order to have a place on the web where we can all share the great green & natural health resources in NJ. I hope you find it a never ending resource when you're looking for health-minded local businesses.