A Harmful, Everyday Chemical
Phthlates are in cosmetics, baby bottles, pill bottles, lotions, baby toys, perfumes and even shampoo--anything bottled or wrapped in plastic. Phthalates can be absorbed through the skin, inhaled, eaten or enter through a medical device.
Kathy Keithley-Johnston has been a nurse for 30 years. Now, she runs an organization which wants to ban the chemical.
"Any kind of chemical is a chemical and it is buyer beware," she said. "We need to always be alert. We need to read, investigate and, beyond that, we need to protect our own selves and our families."
Keithley-Johnston and others believe the biggest roadblock against banning phthaltes in the U.S. is the chemical industry's hold on the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency.
"We think that the FDA is here to protect us. Basically, the FDA, we feel with our organization, is basically the handmaiden of the corporations."
Baxter Corp. makes medical devices for hospitals throughout the country. Baxter still uses pvc plastic, which carries high levels of phthalates, even though the company promised to stop using the plastic five years ago.
Critics say it's a question of cost-effectiveness, because anything with phthalates is a cheaper product.
But Baxter issued a statement which reads, "Baxter believes that the pvc is the material of choice in many products. These products have undergone strict regulatory review by many government and independent health agenices throughout the world and their safety has been confirmed by more than 40 years of use."
Some researchers believe the effects of phthalates on male animals include undescended testes, lower sperm count and testicular tumors, and premature breast development in female animals. But, the biggest threat they see is for developing fetuses and infants.
For some consumers, the threat of phthalates raises even higher concerns.
"Being a diabetic with an insulin pump and having that kind of plastic inside of me 24/7, it is kind of concerning to me because I'm exposed more than the average, everyday consumer," said Chris Roeseler.
With no practical way to avoid pthalates, studies still underway, and little government intervention, Johnston says it's up to consumers to read labels, be proactive and protect themselves.
In the next few weeks, an MU professor will start researching the effects of phthalates.
For more information on Johnston's organization, go to www.toxicdiscovery.com.