Phthalates

imageWhen I used to see a BPA- free sign on a toy, I’d get a warm, fuzzy feeling that I was buying something safe for my Isabella. Once I saw that BPA-free sticker, I thought it was practically healthy! I’m starting to think it’s an advertising trick to lull us into a false sense of security, because we stop questioning right there. Alarmingly, I’m learning there are other just as damaging chemicals in toys, such as phthalates in Australia, which are mostly banned for children’s toys in the U.S. and the EU.

Sadly, Isabella LOVES phthalates. They give that soft rubberiness to her bath toys, the jelly rubber feel to her favourite bit of the teether… If there’s a soft plastic, it’s almost always because of phthalates. They’re also in paints, glues, coatings and textiles of toys…as well as being just as widely used in other parts of our lives!

Young children like Isabella are at the greatest risk of exposure because she puts EVERYTHING she possibly can in her mouth. Studies have shown that we can also absorb phthalates through the skin and by simply breathing! As I research this, I find myself looking around my home and feel overwhelmed.

So what is so harmful about the cumulative effects of phthalates? Phthalates are strongly linked to:
– Breast cancer
– Endocrine/hormone disruption
– Potential birth defects particularly in men
– Mental and intellectual delays in development
– Obesity

Phthalates have the benefit of a non-catchy, awkward to pronounce name… I’ve learnt it’s pronounced “THAL-ates”. Phthalates are everywhere, but don’t need to be! There’s apparently a substitute based on vegetable oil already developed!

It’s a bit overwhelming, but there’s so much at stake. So what can we do? Look out for products which include ‘phthalate free’ as well as ‘BPA-free’ and share with us when you find them, because at this stage in Australia, choice is pretty limited. With increased awareness and more demand for these products, we should be able to influence supply.