Your Plastic Drink Bottle May be Doing You Harm

Dr Amy Gajjar explains the dangers found in everyday items such as a bottle of water

“Almost 90% of ingredients found in cosmetics and personal care products have not been safely tested for human health effects” – Breast Cancer Fund 2006

WHAT ARE PHTHALATES?

Phthalates (pronounced “Thal- Ates”) are chemicals that have been used since the 1920’s to make a  variety of different products. They are also known as “plasticizers” as adding them to plastics makes the plastic flexible and durable.
These days Phthalates are ubiquitous and are among a group of environmental toxins that also includes BPA (Bisphenol A), parabens and PCB’s.  As they are not bonded within the product they are used in they can leach out, and so can be absorbed orally from food/drinks, through the skin (Janjua 2008), inhalation and  medical injection procedures (Schettler 2005) .
There are about 20 commonly used Pthalates; Even those that have been banned could still be having an effect as they degrade slowly.  Further, even very small amounts of phthalates can interact with other toxins and have cumulative effects.

WHERE ARE THEY FOUND?
“72% of personal care products tested contained phthalates”- Environmental Working Group 2002
Phthalates can be found in:

Food/drink  containers/wrappers
Personal care products/cosmetics  (inc. perfume, eye shadow, hair spray, nail polish & moisturizers)
PVC flooring
Wires/cables/electrical goods
Varnishes/lacquers
Coating in some pharmaceuticals drugs
Medical intravenous bags/ tubing
Cleaning materials/detergents
Children’s toys
Glues and erasers
Paints/waxes
Shower curtains

WHY SHOULD I BE CONCERNED ABOUT THEM?
Phthalates have been linked to various medical problems.

1.  Cancer

“Almost 90% of ingredients used in cosmetics and personal care products have not been safety tested for human health effects” – Breast Cancer Fund 2006
The main concern is that they have been found to mimic our hormones – together with other environmental pollutants, they are  known as “endocrine disrupting chemicals”.
Studies have shown a link between breast cancer and phthalate exposure. They can bind to the oestrogen receptors and act in addition to the natural oestrogen.

2.  Obesity, metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance

Numerous studies have shown an association  between urinary phthalates and increased waist circumference and insulin resistance.

3.  Allergies/Asthma

Studies have found an association between allergies and asthma in children and certain phthalates.

4.  Behavioural/Learning difficulties

Studies have shown some correlation amongst mothers prenatal exposure to phthalates and ADHD in children.

5.  Other symptoms from phthalate exposure include

Headaches, dizziness, chronic fatigue, muscle and joint pains, numbness and tingling, twitching and tremors.
WHAT CAN I DO TO REDUCE MY EXPOSURE TO THEM?
AVOID plastic containers/bottles  with the  recycling code 1, 3, 6 or 7. And if there is no number, avoid that too.
(check bottom of product, there should be a number inside a triangle)

1= PET (polyethylene terephthalate):  Found in water bottles and soft drinks. Can be used once but not repeatedly.
3= PVC (polyvinyl chloride):  Found in cling film, food packaging, cooking oil bottles and toys,
6= PS (polystyrene) Found in disposable plates/cups/trays, egg cartons, take away containers
7= PC (polycarbonate) and others.  Found in baby bottles, large water containers

TEN PRACTICAL TIPS ON REDUCING YOUR PHTHALATE EXPOSURE

Minimise use of plastic water bottles – use glass or stainless steel bottles.
Do not heat foods/drinks in plastic containers in microwave ovens.  In particular, do notheat plastic baby bottles in microwaves.
Avoid plastic cookware- opt for pyrex/ ceramic containers especially for heating and storing.
Buy natural, certified organic cosmetics/personal care products. (nearly 900 chemicals that are used in cosmetics are known to be toxic- this list includes phthalates as well as SLS and parabens- National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health
Buy natural, eco-friendly home cleaning products.
Open the windows! Ensure good air circulation whether you are in your car (“new car smell” is partly from phthalates, their concentration gets worse when car gets hot)  or indoors.
Don’t use PVC building/piping/ house products
Choose safer plastic toys (some manufacturers have pledged that they are phthalate free). Or just avoid plastic toys.
Don’t assume that just because it’s on the shelf that the product is safe!
Don’t be tricked by words like “natural” – so is uranium!

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