Phthalates and how to reduce your baby’s exposure

“Phthalates”: Odds are good you’ve heard the term, but what actually is a phthalate? At Kudos, we care about what touches baby's skin -- and that's why we chose cotton -- naturally free of phthalates -- to touch baby's skin all day. But what are these phthalates that we hear so much about and why should we care?

Phthalates (pronounced thal-ates) are plasticizers, intended to help plastics flow better to form the products many of us use on a daily basis. Phthalates are also used as solvents in some detergents, and they are used in fragrances to help smells linger. Phthalates are durable, meaning they last well beyond their period of intended use in manufacturing. And unfortunately, phthalates have found their way into the human body with negative consequences.

What effects do phthalates have on babies? 

Scientists have found phthalates in many products used in daily life, and it is estimated that more than 80% of people alive today (including babies) have some amount of phthalates in their bodies. This is concerning for a few different reasons:

  • Phthalates have been found in human cord blood and breast milk, pointing to exposure very early in life (source)
  • Exposure to phthalates can result in endocrine disruptions to normal hormone development in children, including early breast development in girls (source) and development of testes in boys (source)
  • Phthalates are associated with respiratory and skin problems, including allergies, rhinitis, and eczema (source)

Baby chewing on plastic toy

Where is phthalate exposure happening for babies?

There are so many possible sources of phthalates that it is difficult to isolate just a few. Phthalates are as ubiquitous as plastic products, especially for babies. Some sources of phthalates include:

  • the air 
  • plastic toys
  • shampoos and lotions 
  • vinyl floors
  • shower curtains 
  • some medical products, such as saline bags, feeding and breathing tubes and catheters

What can I do about it?

It’s nearly impossible to avoid phthalates, when studies have shown that phthalates are in the air we breathe, the bottles we use to feed our babies, and even our breast milk

You can reduce exposure to phthalates by avoiding certain “flexible” plastics, particularly those with the numbers 3 or 7 on them (check the bottom of the plastic item, where the recycling symbols is) in the following ways:

  • Avoid buying food wrapped in plastic
  • Drink and eat off ceramic, glass, or stainless steel rather than plastic
  • Avoid anything with fragrance
  • Avoid phthalates in personal care items like menstrual pads and diapers by using cotton or other non-plastic materials where possible

Avoiding phthalates in diapers: Give Kudos a try

Considering babies spend the first two and a half years of their lives sitting in diapers, the decision as to what diaper to use is an important one. Kudos diapers are designed to place unscented, non-plastic 100% cotton material next to baby’s skin. Why? Our cotton has no added phthalates and is Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certified, which means it has been tested and no detectable phthalates were found (among 100+ other harmful chemicals). Cotton has been used in diapers for generations, but with Kudos you also get the added bonus of the convenience of disposable diapers. With phthalates in so many other items, we hope Kudos diapers provide some peace of mind for parents hoping to protect their babies, the planet, and their couch.

About the author

Mom of 3 and an engineer-by-trade. Emily is leading up diaper engineering at Kudos and pushing the industry to be more sustainable. Whether the topic is diapers, babies, or Mama Earth, she's on a mission to find and share the best info there is to offer. Engineer and mama by day. Blogger by night.

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