Still on the subject of packaging…as well as being bad for the environment it can also be very bad for your health.
The phthalate chemicals used in packaging are banned in some countries and have been blamed for many ailments. So should you (and can you) ban them from your home?
Plastic packaging contains phthalate chemicals. These chemicals are generally used to make plastic soft, for example in credit cards, shampoo bottles or plastic shower curtains.
The most worrying thing is that these chemicals get into your food from plastic wrappings and gloves. They are also in PVC flooring and cosmetics.
Their use is so widespread that they are nearly impossible to avoid entirely. Research has shown that 95 percent of us have detectable levels of phthalates in our urine.
In the past few years, researchers have linked phthalates to asthma, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, breast cancer, obesity, type II diabetes, low IQ, neurodevelopmental issues, behavioural issues, autism spectrum disorders, altered reproductive development and male fertility issues. Studies have shown that children breathe in phthalates and absorb them through the skin.
You'll find phthalates in food packaging, perfume, hair spray, deodorant, almost anything fragranced (from shampoo to air fresheners to laundry detergent), nail polish, insect repellent, carpeting, vinyl flooring, the coating on wires and cables, shower curtains, raincoats, plastic toys, and your car's steering wheel, dashboard, and gearshift. (When you smell that ‘new car’ or ‘new carpet’ smell you're smelling phthalates). Medical devices are full of phthalates -- they make IV drip bags and tubes soft, but unfortunately, the chemical is being pumped directly into the bloodstream of poorly patients.
Phthalates are found in our food and water, too. They are in dairy products, possibly from the plastic tubing used to milk cows. They are in meats (some phthalates are attracted to fat, so meats and cheeses have high levels). You'll find phthalates in tap water that's been tainted by industrial waste, and in the pesticides sprayed on conventional fruits and vegetables.
7 Ways to Avoid Phthalates
Eliminating all phthalate exposure might be impossible, but we can certainly greatly reduce our exposure with the following strategies.
- Avoid fragrance. The word "fragrance" or "parfum" on a label almost always means phthalates. Look on the label for: "no synthetic fragrance" or "scented with only essential oils" or "phthalate-free." Always use only natural air fresheners.
- Avoid hand-me-down plastic toys. Several types of phthalates are now banned from children's toys, teethers, bottles, and feeding products. But these laws only came into effect in 2009, so anything made of soft plastic that was manufactured before then probably contains phthalates.
- Phthalates leach into food through packaging so you should avoid microwaving food or drinks in plastic, not use plastic cling wrap and store your food in glass containers where possible. The best thing, of course, is to avoid packaged, processed food altogether.
- Eat organic produce. Phthalates are used in pesticides and are also found in sewage sludge that is used in conventional agriculture. Neither are permitted on certified organic produce.
- Invest in a water filter. Granular activated carbon filters should remove DEHP, which is the type of phthalate used in water pipes. Unfortunately, some sources claim that a percentage of water may pass through the carbon without filtration. A nano-filtration system is a more expensive but possibly more reliable way to filter out phthalates.
- If you need a new floor covering avoid vinyl flooring. Natural wood, stone or slate is better.
- Put pressure on retailers to reduce or eliminate toxic chemicals from their shelves. With a mountain of scientific evidence piling up on phthalates, consumers putting pressure on retailers and retailers in turn pushing their suppliers to find both alternatives to phthalates is a way to remove the chemicals from their products altogether.
Phthalates can fairly simply be removed altogether from products, with no replacement. It’s when the chemicals are used to create tubing or packaging that eliminating them becomes difficult. Basically, remember that if you’re using soft, squeezable plastic, you’re using phthalates.
I’ve decided to challenge myself to do something every day for 21 days to show how living a more conscious life we can heal ourselves and heal the earth.
If you join me in the challenge please use the hashtag #consciousliving.
If you want a more personal and in-depth challenge that makes you question your level of consciousness and beliefs, join me on my 21 Day Conscious Living Challenge. It starts on the 21st of July and there are still a few places left. Are you up for the challenge?