Indulgent yet responsible fabrics

Three pregnant women

As if we needed something else to worry about, a peer-reviewed study from the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, published in December 2014, found evidence that chemicals called phthalates can impact the children of pregnant women who were exposed to those chemicals. Children of moms who had the highest levels of phthalates during pregnancy had markedly lower IQs at age 7. [1] Phthalates had previously been linked to effects ranging from behavioral disorders and cancers to deformations of the sex organs.

Why are we talking about this in a blog about fabrics?

Because phthalates are in the fabrics we use.  Generally, phthalates are used to make plastic soft: they are the most commonly used plasticizers in the world and are pretty much ubiquitous. They’re found in perfume, hair spray, deodorant, almost anything fragranced (from shampoo to air fresheners to laundry detergent), nail polish, insect repellent, carpeting, vinyl flooring, the coating on wires and cables, shower curtains, raincoats, plastic toys, and your car’s steering wheel, dashboard, and gearshift. (When you smell “new car,” you’re smelling phthalates.) Medical devices are full of phthalates — they make IV drip bags and tubes soft, but unfortunately, DEHP is being pumped directly into the bloodstream of ailing patients. Most plastic sex toys are softened with phthalates.

Phthalates are found in our food and water, too. They are in dairy products, possibly from the plastic tubing used to milk cows. They are in meats (some phthalates are attracted to fat, so meats and cheeses have high levels, although it’s not entirely clear how they are getting in to begin with). You’ll find phthalates in tap water that’s been tainted by industrial waste, and in the pesticides sprayed on conventional fruits and vegetables.

And fabrics. People just don’t think to even mention fabrics, which we continue to identify as the elephant in the room. Greenpeace did a study of fabrics produced by the Walt Disney Company in 2004 and found phthalates in all samples tested, at up to 20% by weight of the fabric.[2] Phthalates are one of the main components of plastisol screen printing inks used on fabrics. These plasticizers are not chemically bound to the PVC, so they can leach out. They’re also used in the production of synthetic fibers, as a finish for synthetic fibers to prevent static cling and as an intermediary in the production of dyes.

Phthalates are what is termed an “endocrine disruptor” – which means they interfere with the action of hormones. Hormones do a lot more than just make the sexual organs develop. During the development of a fetus, they fire on and off at certain times to affect the brain and other organs.

“The developing brain relies on hormones,” Dr. Factor-Litvak, the lead scientist of the study, said. Thyroid hormones affect the development of neurons, for example. There might be a window of vulnerability during pregnancy when certain key portions of the brain are forming, she said, and kids whose moms take in a lot of the chemicals during those times might be at risk of having the process disrupted somehow.

“These findings further suggest a potential role for phthalates on neurodevelopment,” said Dr. Maida P. Galvez, who did not work on the study but has a specialty in environmental pediatrics. The associate professor is in the Department of Preventive Medicine and Pediatrics at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “While this requires replication in other study populations for confirmation, it underscores the fact that chemicals used in everyday products need to be rigorously evaluated for their full potential of human health impacts before they are made widely available in the marketplace.”[3]

In the United States, the new Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA) banned certain phthalates from use in toys or certain products marketed to children. In order to comply with this law, a product must not contain more than 0.1% of any of six banned phthalates. But just these six – the class of phthalates includes more than 25 different chemicals.

Gwynne Lyons, policy director of the campaign group, CHEM Trust, said: “The number of studies showing that these substances can cause harm is growing, but efforts by Denmark to try and get EU action on some phthalates had run into difficulties, largely because of concerns about the costs to industry.” [4] (our highlight!)

[1] Factor-Litvak, Pam, et al., “Persistent Associations Between Maternal Prenatal Exposure to Phthalates on Child IQ at Age 7 Years”, PLOS One, December 10, 2014; DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0114003

[2] Pedersen, H and Hartmann, J; “Toxic Textiles by Disney”, Greenpeace, Brussels, April 2004

[3] Christensen, “Exposure to common household chemicals may cause IQ drop”, CNN, December 11, 2014 http://www.cnn.com/2014/12/11/health/chemical-link-to-lower-iq/

[4] Sample, Ian, “Phthalates risk damaging children’s IQs in the womb, US researchers suggest”, The Guardian, December 10, 2014

5 thoughts on “Phthalate concerns for pregnant women

  1. Reblogged this on sondasmcschatter and commented:

  2. i Love your blog, I know wordpress has a simple share button you can add and I hope you do so I can share your blog on facebook, its so well written and informative and important, thank you!!

  3. ps I mean if there is a way to add the share link to the email post i get, its here and I just used it but didn’t know : )

  4. atmannahouse@bigpond.com says:

    Hello Patty and LeighAnne…..How impressive I find your character and committment to bringing the facts to light here…thank you…as an older person TRYING to bring a TOTALLY BIO-Degradable Product into Production here in Australia,I feel total admiration for the honesty and integrity you ALWAYS SHOW…thank you. ONE DAY SOON I HOPE I will contact you with my PRODUCT and my hopes for the future. IT might even be something you might like to introduce to the USA Market…however I am ahead of myself here!! Your ARTICLE has just so delighted me!!!! Keep up your skills in showing the TRUTH OUT THERE…please….sincerely, Gabrielle Drinkwater..South Australia. 30.01.2015 Date: Thu, 29 Jan 2015 20:41:51 +0000 To: atmannahouse@bigpond.com

  5. Leslie says:

    Okay… Been searching for over 5 yrs… Need to replace several floors in our old house… NEED HELP!! PLEASE!!! I am concentrating on just the bathroom right now. CAN ANYONE RECOMMEND A NONTOXIC, PURE WHITE, FLOOR-FOR A BATHROOM??? (( Something, that is nontoxic, to come in contact with bare feet. Must be able to withstand high humidity. Must be installed without toxic glues or toxic backing or toxic grout. )) Ceramic, porcelain, hard tiles are too slick and slippery, when wet, or near humidity…Vinyl flooring and vinly tiles are too toxic. Real wood cannot tolerate water- and is not whute, anyway. Faux and engineered wood is toxic. Also, glues are highly toxic. Cork and Bamboo are never pure white. Remnant or wall to wall carpeting is still toxic, unless I get organic. But, I am going for a reslly, sleek, ultra modern look-for this bathroom. Even if I simply paint the floors with 0 VOC paint, the 0 VOC paint is STILL TOXIC. It is only LESS TOXIC. Varnish, seals and polyurethane sealants are all filled with toxic chemicals, too! I need help! Healthier products have come a long way, but not long enough… Lol!
    If nobody replies, I will understand… If I posted this in the wrong place, then I apologize… Thanks and STAY HEALTHY, Leslie

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: