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Q & A - What Are Phthalates

Phthalates are a group of chemicals often called plasticizers because they are added to plastics to make them more pliable. And in chemical speak they are synthetic esters of phallic acid.

Besides their use in plastics they are also used as solvents–in other words things dissolve in it (solute) to make a solution- and fragrance enhancers in many consumer products.

There are about a dozen different types of phthalate compounds used in everything from air fresheners to shower curtains.

The most common phthalates can be loosely grouped into

·         Lower molecular weight - (dimethyl phthalate [DMP], diethyl phthalate [DEP], and dibutyl phthalate [DBP])

·         Higher molecular weight - (diethyl hexyl phthalate [DEHP], diisononyl phthalate [DINP], diisodecyl phthalate [DIDP], and benzyl butyl phthalate [BBP]).

(molecular weight is basically  the mass of a molecule, based on the sum of the atomic weights of the atoms in a molecule).

Why Phthalates Are A Toxic Problem

Phthalates aren’t chemically bound to the products they’re in so they’re easily released into food that comes into contact with plastic and your homes air from plastic and fragranced products. Also, low molecular weight phthalates like DBP and DEP can be absorbed through your skin. And these are the types of phthalates used in personal care products

In other words, you inhale, ingest and absorb phthalates constantly. And that’s a problem because this exposure can wreck your health.

  • It’s really easy to inhale phthalates because your indoor air usually contains high levels of them. In the last decade, several studies have linked exposure to these toxins with wheeze, allergies, and asthma among children and adults.

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