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Phthalates what’s the risk?

First off – what are phthalates? “Phthalates are a group of chemicals used in hundreds of products, such as toys, detergents, lubricating oils, food packaging, pharmaceuticals, and personal care products, such as hair sprays, aftershave lotions, soaps, shampoos, perfumes, and other fragrance preparations.” (FDA)  They are most commonly used to help make products durable.  Some of the phthalate chemicals are Dibutylphthalates (DBP), Dimethylphthalates (DMP), and Diethyl Phthalates (DEP). DBP and DMP are not widely used today but DEP is still very common. Overall, this group of chemicals is found in many facets of daily life. But, are they safe?


The FDA and CDC have been continuously monitoring exposure and risk of phthalate use. And because of this, as stated above, DBP and DMP are not as prominent as they used to be. The use of “phthalates in cosmetics have decreased considerably from 2004-2010” (FDA). 

There have been many studies conducted on urine to see existing levels and if these levels increase or decrease over time due to personal use of these products that are found in daily life and/or manufacturing changes. Some of these studies have been conducted on infant’s urine, as baby products, such as shampoos, powders, and lotions, contain phthalates. These studies are not meant to definitely prove health risks but are meant to track exposure and the levels of phthalates in urine. 

There are also some primary sources and blogs circulating online stating phthalates can cause lower fertility in men and women. Some state phthalates can cause infertility,  they risk obesity, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. And women that have higher levels of phthalates in their system may reach menopause earlier than women with lower levels.  There is also a connection between kidney, lungs, and liver damage with prolonged exposure to phthalates.  

Human health effects to low levels of phthalates are not as clear and more research is needed to fully understand the health effects of human exposure. But while there is not a specific study that definitively proves that phthalate isn’t safe, the connection between phthalate-laden products and health effects can be seen everywhere. Phthalates have been found to be a hormone-disrupting chemical that can then cause the above issues in humans. Being a hormone disruptor means that when phthalates are absorbed into the bloodstream, they can mimic or suppress the hormones that are found within our bodies, which can have lasting effects on one’s health

So why are phthalates still being used if there are some pretty devastating outcomes?

So why are phthalates still being used if there are some pretty devastating outcomes that can come from it?  Phthalates do have some benefits from their ability to provide the structure that can come from it? Phthalates do have some benefits from their ability to provide structure to plastics and help carry and extend fragrances in beauty products. Fortunately, many companies have voluntarily stopped using phthalates and found alternatives that provide the exact same benefits. However, there are a few ways that companies can get past putting ‘contains phthalates on their products. One way is including phthalates in their ingredient deck under ‘fragrance’. Under the current law, this can be legally done without the consumer know exactly what they are putting on their person. Another is limiting the consumer’s knowledge of what is exactly being said on the product.  We have all seen thousands of different triangles on plastic with different numbers and symbols.  Do most people know what every single one means? No, and that is how some companies can get away with it.  Any triangle that contains the number 3 within and the letters V or PVC contains phthalates. 

At the end of the day, studies are still being done to understand the whole picture of phthalates on human health. However, you, as the consumer, have the right to know what is in your products and can alter your purchases as you see fit. Our products at KHUS + KHUS are free of these types of chemicals as we strive for clean and natural ingredients in all of our products. We believe that surrounding ourselves with plants and nature is the only way to achieve balance in every facet of our lives. 

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