Phthalates? No thank you

Phthalates are man-made chemicals used as plasticisers in polyvinyl chloride (PVC) materials such as food packaging, flooring and some medical equipment and are added to cosmetics and personal care products as solvents, fixatives and adhesives. They are also very prone to leaching into the environment and entering our food chain. Phthalates are classified as endocrine-disrupting chemicals – they can affect your hormones –and have been linked to adverse health effects, especially in infants, children and adolescents. Recent studies have shown links between increased phthalate levels and neurobehavioral development in early life, changes in testicular function in men such as decreased semen quality and endometriosis in women (a painful womb condition). One of the phthalates (DiNP) has recently been classified as a carcinogen in California. Whilst the use of phthalates in EU food packaging is restricted, they are still used in many products and equipment such as tubing in milking machines and conveyor belts. However, as the latest scientific review pointed out: “With an ever increasing global market, phthalate contamination is a food safety issue that crosses international borders.” For several types of phthalates, food is the most significant route into the human body. They bind especially well to fats so high-fat foods are more likely to accumulate them. The review identified that meat (poultry, pork, beef), dairy products (especially cheese, cream and ice cream) and oils and fats had consistently high levels. On the other hand, grains (especially pasta and rice), fruit and vegetables had consistently low levels. Fish and seafood were found to contain variable amounts, ranging from moderate to very high. The review authors also concluded that vegan a diet could significantly reduce your exposure to phthalates.

Serrano et al., 2014. Phthalates and diet: a review of the food monitoring and epidemiology data. Environmental Health. 13 (1) 43.