Ugly Ducklings

Ugly Ducklings
Ugly Ducklings

TRY THIS AT HOME

Read the labels of personal care products to avoid phthalates. Look for labels that say “phthalate-free” and ask retailers and manufacturers whether products are phthalate-free.

Avoid using nail polish and hairspray, as they often contain phthalates. Other common ingredients in nail polish, such as toluene and xylene, are neurotoxins. If you do choose to wear nail polish and use hairspray, select brands with the least toxic ingredients, and remember to apply the polish and hairspray outside or in a well-ventilated area. If you frequent a nail salon, consider taking your own nail polish, one you know to be less toxic. For information about less toxic brands, visit Skin Deep, the online cosmetic safety database, or the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics website. Keep in mind, though, that these databases only consider ingredients disclosed by the manufacturer so high-ranked products can contain hidden risks.

Discourage girls from wearing makeup and nail polish. Many personal care products contain toxics and endocrine disrupting compounds, and the old argument between daughters and parents of how young is too young to wear makeup takes on new poignancy when you consider adolescent girls’ special vulnerability to estrogenic effects.

Ask retailers and manufacturers whether their products are phthalate-free. Consumer questions help to bring about change.

What you don’t know can hurt you. Silent Spring Institute researchers found phthalates—endocrine disrupting compounds that have been associated with cancer, impaired fertility, and male birth defects—in all the homes tested in the original Household Exposure Study in 2003 and the follow up study in 2010.

Phthalates—which are found in hundreds of products, including shampoo, lotion, perfume, cosmetics, and even old rubber duckies—often occur as an unlisted ingredient in fragrance.

The most common phthalates are dibutyl phthalate, diethyl phthalate, and diethylhexyl phthalate, better known as DEHP.

Dibutyl phthalate—which is used to keep nail polish from chipping and to prevent the cracking and drying of an array of commercial products such as shampoo, body wash, and moisturizer—has been found to increase the likelihood that laboratory animals will give birth to offspring with birth defects, especially of the male reproductive system.

DEHP, at common exposure levels, has been associated with male reproductive development, steroid hormone levels, and sperm quality.