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Dangerously Alluring: The Scent of Poison

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Dangerously Alluring: The Scent of Poison

Your scented personal care products may be making you sick and producing reproductive abnormalities in your children. Phthalates are the chemicals used in synthetic fragrances to make them last longer. They are scent fixatives. Without phthalates, the scent would dissipate very quickly after application, leaving you wondering where your favorite perfume went.

Most cosmetics, household cleaners, and personal care products including shampoos, conditioners, nail polishes, hairsprays, perfumes, colognes, body washes, and soaps contain phthalates. If you have ever tried to find fragrance-free products, you know what I am talking about! Phthalates have also been in the news recently regarding their use in children’s toys, particularly the ones that are mouthed, and plastic wrap used in food preparation.

Phthalates are a group of endocrine-disrupting chemicals which are readily absorbed through the skin and can also enter the body through ingestion and inhalation. As hormone disruptors, it should come as no surprise that many of their unwanted effects relate to reproduction and development- hormonally driven activities.

Phthalates have been associated with a variety of serious health problems including infertility, premature births, defects of male genitalia, premature puberty in girls, uterine fibroids, breast cancer, obesity, asthma and allergies.

The greatest concerns regarding phthalates are their effects on human reproduction and development. Phthalates have demonstrated the ability to decrease testosterone in men, reduce sperm counts and motility, and cause genital deformation in male infants. Exposure of human mothers to phthalates as measured by an analysis of their urine samples has been associated with shortened ano-genital distances in their male newborns- a characteristic of feminization of external genitalia. There are also concerns about phthalates causing fetal mortality, low birth weights, and other fetal abnormalities.

In the girls we are seeing premature puberty- sometimes in girls that are only three years old. Have you wondered why girls are maturing so early? This problem is so widespread that the age of puberty in girls is being “normalized” so that the new guidelines for precocious puberty are for girls under the age of 7 or 8- implying that puberty that occurs in girls between 9 and 12 is now normal! Thirty years ago the average age of puberty in girls was between 12 and 13. The average age has now dropped to between 10 and 11. Phthalates are associated with premature puberty in girls, but they are not the only class of endocrine disrupting chemicals that are implicated.

Phthalates are ubiquitous in humans. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have been looking at the blood and urine levels of various chemicals in the bodies of Americans for almost ten years and phthalates have been found in virtually everyone tested. This has also been found to be true for the people tested in Europe.

The great news is that phthalates break down fairly quickly and do not bioaccumulate in our tissues. But the fact that nearly everyone tests positive for it means that we are being exposed to them on a fairly continous basis.

It makes sense then, that simple avoidance of phthalates will allow the body to excrete the phthalates naturally without any additional detoxification support. Rick Smith, one of the authors of Slow Death by Rubber Duck , tried this and detailed the results of his ambitious experiment in his book. Although he allowed three days to detox his current load of phthalates, accelerated by fasting for two days, refraining from showering, avoiding all scented items and all personal care products,and then only consuming fresh foods from the Farmers Market that had not come into contact with plastic for the third day, he was found to have five of the six phthalates for which he was tested, albeit at low levels.

He then applied scented personal care products, used a Glade Plug-In Scented Oil for two hours on one day, and ate regular food to see how the results would change. Rick Smith was shocked to see that one of the phthalate metabolites (MEP-one of the chemicals linked to male reproductive problems) went through the roof, from 64 to 1,410 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL). And thus the Rubber Duck Wars were begun. Rubber ducks, those beloved symbols of childhood innocence, contain phthalates too.

To dramatically reduce your phthalate exposure, buy fragrance- free or unscented personal care products and cleaning supplies, do not use fragrance plug-ins, and avoid foods prepared or stored with plastic. Read the label: if you see the words “fragrance” or “parfum” then the item in question contains phthalates. If you see the words “essential oils of rose or lavender etc” then these products are scented with nature’s original perfumes- plant material. Fragrance-free label claims have been rising for the last few years, and hot on their tail are the newer phthalate-free labels.

Of course, my own skin care line, iamfine Pure Skin Collection, does not contain phthalates. I formulated it to be a medical grade, highly effective, non-toxic skin care line notable for what it does not contain:

  • No parabens
  • No ethoxylated ingredients (1,4-dioxane- a carcinogen)
  • No artificial colors or fragrances
  • No phthalates
  • No propylene glycol
  • No alcohols
  • No mineral oils or other petroleum derived ingredients
  • No gluten
  • No silicone
  • No formaldehyde releasers or nitrosamine formers

As a board-certified doctor emphasizing Environmental Medicine, I have developed an integrated approach to skin care that produces natural radiance and youthfulness through highly functional, non-toxic, and nourishing organic ingredients. My motto is never put anything on your skin that you would not eat!

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