Fear of Phthalates

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Air fresheners, the $1 billion-plus category that's among the hottest in household products in recent years, is officially a political and health hot potato, thanks to a report and petition from the Natural Resources Defense Council linking them to possible hormonal abnormalities, birth defects and reproductive problems in males. [From Advertising Age - Fear of Phthalates Spreads to $1B Air-Freshener Category]

Oh, what's a few phthalates amongst friends.....

And is our biggest worry how companies can best market this crap to us? How about ban phthalates first, then worry about selling us non-toxic nail polish, yadda yadda? Where was the EPA in all this? Rhetorical question, of course, we know they were too busy wining and dining corporation executives at SCJohnson and Walgreen's to busy their little brains with protecting citizens.

The NRDC, joined by the Sierra Club, Alliance for Healthy Homes and National Center for Healthy Housing, has petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency and Consumer Products Safety Commission to investigate and regulate air-quality and health issues related to air fresheners.

Their concern is that phthalates, a chemical found in some air fresheners, have been shown in some lab-animal studies to disrupt testosterone production and cause malformation of sex organs. Some studies of humans have linked exposure to the chemicals with adverse changes in the genitals of baby boys. The groups' petition also said volatile organic compounds such as benzene, linked to cancer, can be found in some of the air fresheners, though it did not specify levels of that chemical in individual products.

While marketers challenged the validity of research by the NRDC, which tested 14 products for sale at Walgreens for phthalates, the drugstore chain has pulled three of its own private-label air fresheners off shelves of its 5,850 stores nationwide and initiated testing of other brands. The Walgreens brands had the highest levels of phthalates among the products tested.


The environmental groups urged the government to conduct more thorough tests and possibly enact measures to limit consumer exposure to the chemicals. They also said "consumers may wish to avoid using air fresheners -- especially in places where there are children or pregnant women."

The NRDC report noted that 10 of the 14 products tested had no ingredient listings whatsoever, and none indicated phthalates were present. The report by the NRDC also found levels of volatile organic compounds in the air fresheners, which have been cited as an important source of indoor air pollution by the European Union.

The EPA said it would review the petition and respond in the 90 days allowed by law. A spokesman for the CSPC didn't return a call for comment.

Gina Solomon, an internist and researcher at the NRDC, said the group tested levels of phthalates in the products, rather than in rooms where they were used, because it doesn't have facilities to test dispersal of the chemicals in the air. "That's why we consider our results preliminary," she said, "and that's why we petitioned [the government agencies] to follow up on our results. We just think there's a potential risk that consumers should know about and needs to be followed up."

From the wikipedia:

Phthalates, or phthalate esters, are a group of chemical compounds that are mainly used as plasticizers (substances added to plastics to increase their flexibility). They are chiefly used to turn polyvinyl chloride from a hard plastic into a flexible plastic.

Phthalate esters are the dialkyl or alkyl aryl esters of 1,2-benzenedicarboxylic acid; the name phthalate derives from phthalic acid. When added to plastics, phthalates allow the long polyvinyl molecules to slide against one another. The phthalates show low water solubility, high oil solubility, and low volatility. The polar carboxyl group contributes little to the physical properties of the phthalates, except when R and R' are very small (such as ethyl or methyl groups). They are colorless, odorless liquids produced by reacting phthalic anhydride with an appropriate alcohol (usually 6 to 13 carbon).

As of 2004, manufacturers produce about 400,000 tons (800 million pounds or 363 million kilograms) of phthalates each year. They were first produced during the 1920s, and have been produced in large quantities since the 1950s, when PVC was introduced. The most widely used phthalates are di-2-ethyl hexyl phthalate (DEHP), diisodecyl phthalate (DIDP) and diisononyl phthalate (DINP). DEHP is the dominant plasticizer used in PVC, due to its low cost. Benzylbutylphthalate (BBzP) is used in the manufacture of foamed PVC, which is mostly used as a flooring material. Phthalates with small R and R' groups are used as solvents in perfumes and pesticides.

Phthalates are also frequently used in nail polish, fishing lures, adhesives, caulk, paint pigments, and sex toys made of so-called "jelly rubber." Some vendors of jelly rubber sex toys advise covering them in condoms when used internally, due to the possible health risks. Other vendors do not carry jelly rubber sex toys, in favor of phthalate-free varieties.[1] The Dutch office of Greenpeace UK sought to encourage the European Union to ban sex toys that contained phthalates

Less plastic, more hemp!

1 Comment

After breast ca. I started eating tomatoes of all kinds organic, eggplant, bla-bla. It seems like this chemical is everywhere.

Yes hemp, I support the cause.

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This page contains a single entry by swanksalot published on September 22, 2007 7:08 PM.

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