One of the mechanisms behind phthalate toxicity is its depression of testosterone. Growing evidence shows that phthalate exposure may express its effect on reproductive health, especially in developing males.48,49 It has also been implicated in miscarriages and birth defects.
Arguments against phthalate’s toxicity include its relatively short half-life, which is less than twenty-four hours.50 This assertion does not hold true, as we are constantly exposed to the chemical; thus, its effects are persistent, with a percentage of the population having unacceptably high levels of phthalates.51
The question is how to avoid exposure. To begin with, it is important to make sure that the personal care products you use do not contain them. A resource to find out which toxins are in your products is available through the non-profit Environmental Working Group at www.ewg.org. The site offers a database called “Skin Deep” which rates various products, lists their toxins, and suggests safer alternatives. Another quick tip to detect phthalates is whether the product emits an aroma; if it does, it likely contains this toxin.
A few years ago, I received a call from a physician at a midwestern university who was concerned that she was finding more and more males between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five with testosterone levels you would normally find in fifty- to sixty-year-olds. When we began testing we found that almost all of the young men with high phthalates had low testosterone. To me this was not a surprising finding given the popularity of body sprays.
The third major source I would caution you on is soft plastics like those used in water bottles. Phthalates are very heat sensitive, and if you ever suspect that a bottle has gotten hot, such as being left in your car during the day, discard it. When Whole Foods opened in Reno a number of years ago, they had a display of bottled water outside the store when the temperature was over 90 degrees F. I called the assistant manager and informed him that this was a good way of increasing the toxic load of his customers and that it might be a good idea to change the display.”