Posted March 17, 2013
I rabbit on about the dangers of synthetic fragrances but my friends just smile and nod. In all honesty, they probably decided I was crazy years before I started this anti-bad-mood spray company. My guess is that whenever my anti-phthalate argument kicks in at the dinner table they just tune me out and start thinking about their personal lives. Or maybe that's just my sister. I don't know.
Anyway. The facts are these:
Phthalates are chemicals used in cosmetics, air fresheners, laundry detergent, dryer sheets, and perfumes to make fragrances last longer. Two common phthalates are DBP (di-n-butyle phthalate) and DEHP (di[2-ethylhexyl] phthalate).
In tests on lab rats, certain phthalates have been linked to an anti-testosterone effect, specifically testicular "changes," liver problems, and cancer. A study of 319 mother-and-child pairs from Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health showed a link between higher phthalate exposure in utero and slower development in children.
In an interview for The Environment Report, study director Robin Whyatt stated, "Three of the phthalates were significantly associated with behavioral
disorders, or behavioral problems: anxious, depressed behaviors,
emotionally reactive behaviors, withdrawn behavior.” The study also noted a link between the presence of phthalates in the mothers' urine and motor problems in children. The study controlled for a long list of other factors, including smoke, lead, pesticides, and other common chemicals found in our every-day environment.
The European Union bans DBP and DEHP, along with a third phthalate, BBP.
The US Environmental Protection Agency has placed both DBP and DEHP on a
list of chemicals that may be hazardous to humans.The problem is that manufacturers of cosmetics and synthetic fragrances aren't required to
disclose ingredients on the label. You'll simply see "fragrance" on the
list without being able to determine whether the phthalates were added to the product.
Now, obviously, I make my own air fresheners out of totally natural, good-smelling essential oils and sell them on the interwebs for anyone who'd like to give them a try. Sometimes, people tell me that they don't want to try spray my products in shared spaces and I don't say anything, but I'm thinking..."You have no idea how many harmful chemicals are part of your every-day world. A little pink grapefruit essential oil might be the best thing that ever happens to you."
But I don't say that. I just politely nod and smile and respect their decision. But a fifteen-year study from Columbia University is good enough evidence for me. I don't need my toddler to grow man boobs
to convince me not to use fabric softener, ok? My towels smell like
towels, not Jamaican Kiwi-Vanilla Shazam! And I'm just fine with that.
Professor Anne C. Steinemann at University of Washington does research into how pollutants affect humans and the environment. Her recent work has focused on toxic ingredients present in commercially produced air fresheners and laundry detergents.
The problem with common household cleaning products, says Steinemann, is that they contain hundreds of chemicals that are not listed on the ingredients list. Many of these chemicals may be harmful, even in very small amounts. According to Steinemann,common air freshener chemicals, such as limonene, generate additional hazardous pollutants such as formaldehyde and acetaldehyde, linked with cancer, and ultrafine particles, linked with heart and lung disease.
Phthalates are used in almost everything - from personal care products to house paint. Studies show phthalates easily leech into the bloodstream and remain present in urine for a long time; evidence suggests that some phthalates may disrupt the endocrine system.
It's definitely worth thinking about the products you bring into your space - work or home.