Phthalates are highly toxic and they’re virtually everywhere. We literally breathe them in! Here is information about the lack of adequate regulation and how you can limit your exposure.
by Heidi Stevenson
Our regulatory agencies have been utterly remiss in dealing with phthalates.
In 2008, the EU Commission produced a document that virtually whitewashes several chemicals, including Di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate. Statements include:
HUMANS EXPOSED VIA THE ENVIRONMENT: there is at present no need for further information and/or testing or for risk reduction measures beyond those which are being applied. This conclusion is reached because the risk assessment shows that risks are not expected. Risk reduction measures already being applied are considered sufficient.
HUMAN HEALTH: there is at present no need for further information and/or testing or for risk reduction measures beyond those which are being applied. This conclusion is reached because the risk assessment shows that risks are not expected. Risk reduction measures already being applied are considered sufficient.
ATMOSPHERE, AQUATIC ECOSYSTEM and TERRESTRIAL ECOSYSTEM:there is at present no need for further information and/or testing or for risk reduction measures beyond those which are being applied. This conclusion is reached because the risk assessment shows that risks are not expected. Risk reduction measures already being applied are considered sufficient.
The US’s EPA is making a show of regulating phthalates, but the reality doesn’t seem to bear out the image. Their documentation speaks of intent to regulate, rather than actual regulation. They have announced:
EPA intends to initiate rulemaking in autumn 2010 to add these eight phthalates to the Concern List under TSCA section 5(b)(4) as chemicals that present or may present an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment. [Emphasis mine.]
EPA also intends to initiate rulemaking in late 2010 to add the six phthalates not already on the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI). [Emphasis mine.]
In preparation for rulemaking in 2012 under TSCA section 6(a), EPA intends to cooperate with the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to more fully assess the use, exposure and substitutes for these chemicals. [Emphasis mine.]
EPA may consider pursuing additional rulemaking under TSCA section 5(a)(2) in late 2010 or early 2011 to require manufacturers and processors of DnPP to notify EPA before manufacturing or processing DnPP for a significant new use. [Emphasis mine.]
EPA intends to conduct a Design for the Environment and Green Chemistry alternatives assessment by 2012. [Emphasis mine.]
It’s 2012, and this is the current status of the EPA’s website on phthalates regulations. It’s all about intentions, but no action seems to have been taken. The EPA’s recent history and conflicts of interest[4,5,6] should not give us much hope for protection from these toxic chemicals. The agency has decided to require approval for new applications of phthalates, which sounds good—but it does nothing about existing phthalate use and it doesn’t actually say anything about how they would regulate. They just say that they will.
Obviously, the health of people is taking second place to corporations’ profits in both the US and EU.
To be blunt, it’s virtually impossible to completely avoid phthalates. They are, literally, in the environment everywhere—in the air, water, and even in food. They’re in cosmetics, cleaning products, and the containers that hold them. They’re in soft vinyl toys, vinyl floorings, vinyl mini blinds, wallpaper, wood finishes, shower curtains, and in the air in rooms that contain them. They’re in wood finishes, perfume, hairspray, soap, shampoo, moisturizers, nail polish, food packaging, plastic wrap, lubricants, adhesives, plumbing pipes, insecticides, medical devices, and much more.
We eat phthalates, we drink phthalates, we soak them in through our skin, and we breathe them. They are everywhere. However, you can limit your exposure, but it will mean doing without a lot of modern conveniences. Here are some things you can do:
Phthalates are not chemically bound to the plastics containing them. As a result, even tiny amounts are dangerous because they separate from the plastics so readily. Millions of tons of phthalates are produced every single year. They truly are ubiquitous.
Do not become complacent when you learn that some phthalates are being restricted. There is a huge number of them, so restricting a few doesn’t make you safe.
As ever, people who suffer from diabetes are blamed for their disease. The association with excess weight is real, though not absolute, but the suggestion that people simply choose to become fat is not only cruel, it’s absurd. The rise in obesity and diabetes parallels that of many changes in the modern world, including phthalate pollution and toxicity in everyday objects and materials, along with changes in the very nature of the food we eat. There are good reasons to believe that both of these items, along with others, are changing our metabolism.
Some chemicals are known to be estrogen mimickers, causing gender-bending fish and all sorts of damage to wildlife. Phthalates, along with other endocrine disruptors, must be assumed to disrupt metabolism, making people crave food and even put on weight at lower calorie intakes.
A cycle of dieting to lose that excess weight—which generally encourages rapid weight loss—results in lowering the metabolism, thus reducing the number of calories required to survive and making future dieting ever more difficult.
How many people in this situation got that way because their metabolism was altered by phthalates? We don’t know—but we do know that it’s a likely scenario for millions of people today who have or are heading for diabetes.
If our health care system and health protection agencies actually cared about our health, they’d stop focusing on placing the blame on victims. Instead, they’d focus on the causes. Fifty years ago, few people were fat. It’s absurd to suggest that so many are now obese because they’re lazy or eat badly. There are many reasons for their affliction, and blaming them for having obesity induced by the garbage sold in supermarkets and the omnipresence of phthalates accomplishes nothing positive, beyond building the egos of those who were blessed with a more resistant metabolism.
Fat Man photo by Emilio Labrador (filter used).
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