Phthalates are man-made chemicals used to stabilize synthetic fragrances and make plastic bottles and toys flexible. We are all exposed to this chemical and everyone has some in their blood. The health effects are still being debated but it is clear that they cannot be considered safe. Phthalates have hormonal effects in the body and have been linked to birth defects and reproductive problems. Infants who are developing rapidly are very vulnerable to this type of toxin and many jurisdictions are banning or limiting its use. The idea that we might be hurting our children with shampoos and toys is chilling.
How do you avoid phthalates? Infants are exposed to this chemical in two ways; from synthetic fragrances and from soft plastic such as squeezable toys and bottles that may leech phthalates into the liquids they contain. So, first of all, do not use any products with synthetic fragrances. Some labeling will try to confuse you by throwing the word ‘natural’ in front of ‘fragrance.’ Look at the ingredients and do not be fooled. If the fragrance is listed as anything other than essential oils, they are using synthetics, and phthalates are most likely present.
Secondly, consider the packaging. If plastic, the bottle should be made of HDPE or PETE (recycling code 2 and 1 respectively) to be sure it is phthalate-free. Check with the manufacturer of any squeezable plastic toy you have. They will be able to tell you if it is phthalate-free.