Phthalates are plasticizers (a common industrial chemical used to make plastic softer and more flexible) and are found in everything from children's toys and bottles to i-pods and shower curtains, making them virtually impossible to avoid.

Phthalates are also commonly found in synthetic fragrances, though they will probably not be listed on the product label as such. If you see "fragrance", "perfume" or "parfum" listed on your perfume, body wash or laundry detergent, there is a high likelihood that it contains phthalates.

Why is it important to avoid them?

When the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) did testing in 2000, all 289 human subjects were found to have surprisingly high levels of phthalates in their blood. The CDC then identified this chemical as a "cause of concern". Phthalates have also been found in urine and breast milk.

Phthalates are endocrine disruptors and have been linked to reproductive problems, genital abnormalities in baby boys, asthma, skin irritation and allergies. But new findings show phthalates to have a significant correlation with ADHD. A recent report by Korean scientists, published in the November 15th issue of Biological Psychiatry, explains a study on school-age children. Symptoms reported by teachers and computerized tests that measure attention and impulsivity showed the higher the concentration of phthalates in the urine, the worse the ADHD symptoms and/or test scores. And even though this testing was performed in Korea, their levels of exposure to phthalates is, most likely, comparable to that of the US.

Editor of Biological Psychiatry, John Krystal, MD, said this new information "raises the concern that accidental environmental exposure to phthalates may be contributing to behavioral and cognitive problems in children". Dr. Krystal went on to say that he feels this warrants further research.

Why can cosmetics manufacturers get away with not disclosing these harmful ingredients?

Because of an FDA ingredient labelling loophole, combinations of ingredients can be deemed a "trade secret" and labelled simply as "fragrance". This allows cosmetics manufacturers to work around disclosure laws. "Fragrance" can be found in everything from nail polish to air fresheners and very often includes Diethylhexyl Phthalate, which helps a scent last longer. Also, a product labeled "Unscented" isn't necessarily free of "fragrance", they often contain chemicals to mask the unpleasant smell of the original chemical fragrance. A great resource on fragrance ingredients can be found here:

With phthalates being as ubiquitous as they are, we can not avoid them completely. We can, however, take steps to minimize our exposure. Read your product labels and choose brands whose policy it is to disclose all ingredients and who are committed to ingredient safety.

You can trust that all Lavera products are free from synthetic fragrance and phthalates. Our ingredient labels list essential oils in compliance to the European INCI standard as "Parfum". We use only the purest, 100% natural, pharmaceutical-grade essential oils to ensure good health and safety.

For more on the subject, read our education page on phthalates.