Plastic is a man-made substance that is used to make many products like bottles, toys and furniture. One group of chemicals used in the plastic-making process is phthalates. These make plastic soft and flexible. Items that may contain this chemical include medical equipment (such as tubing), shampoo, make-up and food packaging. You can also be exposed to phthalates from processed foods. Phthalates are not added into foods directly, but they get into the food from the equipment that is used to process them.
Why are phthalates dangerous?
We don’t know the health effects of low levels of exposure to phthalates. Large amounts of exposure to phthalates during pregnancy can cause problems with your baby’s brain and behavior. For boys, they may cause problems with the prostate, which is a small gland near the bladder and penis that protects sperm.
What can you do to avoid phthalates?
- Try to eat as many fresh foods as possible and limit your intake of processed items. We have tips to help.
- Don’t microwave food in plastic containers or put plastics in the dishwasher. Limit canned food.
- Don’t use shampoo, lotions or powders that contain phthalates. Check the product label to make sure it’s phthalate-free.
- Wash your hands before eating. Teach your children to wash their hands, too.
- Buy toys that are labeled phthalate-free or made after February 2009 and don’t let your baby chew on plastic electronics like the TV remote or a cell phone.
- Don’t re-use single-use plastics such as water bottles, coffee cups and straws.