Phthalates are found in plastics and artificial fragrances. (I pronounce them THAL-lates, I can't manage the PHTH). :-) One of their uses is to make plastics softer and another is to carry fragrances. We are exposed to them in a number of ways - through vinyl shower curtains, new cars (you know that new car smell that we all love - phthalates!), perfumes and some children's toys. They are among a class of chemicals known as endocrine disruptors. Endocrine disruptors interfere with our body's natural hormonal system and cause subtle changes in our bodies. Some possible health effects are: sperm mutations, interference with puberty and masculinity, interference with fetal development and tumor promotion.
One way to avoid them is to avoid artificial fragrances and vinyl shower curtains. I use cloth shower curtains, natural fragrances and avoid cooking in plastic containers, which can contain them also. A great article on how to avoid phthalates can be found on the Huffington Post website.
A study of 9 pregnant women by the Washington Toxics Coalition showed that all of the women had at least 4 types of phthalates in their bloodstreams. The CDC did a study from 2001-2010 of exposures to chemicals as measured by levels of metabolites in urine (http://www.cdc.gov/exposurereport/), and among Americans many phthalates were found in our urine at varying levels. The CDC asserts in its phthalate fact sheet that human health effects from exposure to low levels of phthalates are unknown. Another study by Manikkam, M., et al, showed that phthalates caused multigenerational effects in rats, such as obesity, reproductive disease and sperm mutations. Hmmmmmmmm. I'm not liking it. :(
Keep it Clean!