Para What?? Phthalates???

Parabens….Phthalates…..What in the world are these? And why does it feel like everything from soap to broccoli has a warning label about them these days. But really. I was curious, what the heck is a paraben and why do I care that it’s not in my shampoo. Same with Phthalates. I have made the mistake of assuming that because it is allowed in products by the FDA, it’s safe…right? Wrong. Really wrong.

My very elementary study of these two different compounds leave me yet again dumbfounded by the lack of caution and care free attitude of those who are supposed to be looking out for us and our families. I have just determined that in this life it is my responsibility to take control of my families health (after God of course). But in order to do that apparently I need to read my shampoo label now too.

So what are these things. The basics- parabens are a preservative that has been used in everything from toothpaste, to make-up, pharmaceuticals, and even as a food additive. Problem- we don’t know enough about them. Some studies suggest these chemical compounds could be related to certain growths found in breast cancer; assuming that some topical application resulted in the growth of these parabens in the cancer tumor. Also, there is a pool of research that suggests that parabens could be involved in the disruption of the endocrine system and even mimic estrogen. For those unfamiliar with the role of estrogen- hormones mess with every system of the body (the reason I do not believe in hormonal birth control- that’s for another day) and can result in long term impacts in multiple health systems in the body.

Phthalates are further along in research and some European countries have already banned certain phthalates from use in all products. Unfortunately it seems like Europe is always ahead of the US in this regard- so we would do well to follow suit. The down and dirty. Phthalates are chemical structure used to make plastic a little more pliable. It is also used in make-ups, children’s toys, cleaning agents, and the list could go on forever. Basically it’s in everything. It would be humanly impossible to stay away from it completely- but there are things we can do to minimize our exposure. The problem- The US Health Board has said that most likely these will be deemed as human carcinogens. (Cancer causing agents) A study in Bulgaria showed that children and infants were at the greatest risk. One study even showed a decrease in the mental and intellectual properties of children when exposed in utero to these chemicals.

So the question becomes- why are these things allowed in and around our families? What can I do about it? One of the above studies is similar to our last topic about safer cleaning practices. Children who were in homes where polishing agents were used had a great concentration of phthalates in their urine, than those whose homes did not use such polishing materials. This and many more I’m sure, points to our need to think through things we expose our children to. We and our families can’t live in a box. But we can do what we can at home to lower the rates and exposures to such harmful chemicals.

So the bottom line…read the labels. Manufactures know that once the consumer is informed they will begin to look for labels that say no parabens or phthalates. Now the next time you see that you can decide whether or not the dollar more is worth the exposure and risk or not.


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