Phthalates (pronounced THAL-ates) are a group of chemicals used to increase flexibility and durability to plastics and other products. Unless you read your labels, you might not be familiar with the term. It is, however, an ingredient you should be aware of.
Phthalate exposure may be through direct use or by indirect means. Because phthalates are easily released into the environment, they may reach us through leaching and general environmental contamination. Diet and personal care may also be a factor.
These chemicals are used in a large variety of everyday items ranging from enteric coatings of pharmaceutical pills, nutritional supplements, gelling agents in makeup and personal-care products including liquid soaps, perfumes, hair sprays, adhesives, building materials, medical devices, detergents, children's toys, modelling clay, waxes, paints, printing inks, floor tiles, food containers and coatings, pharmaceuticals, food products, and textiles.
Of most concern to our horses and farm animals is the use of phthalates in agricultural sprays. They are used to enhance the effectiveness of pesticides such as herbicides, insecticides, fungicides and other agents that control or eliminate unwanted pests. These additives modify the solution to improve the ability of the chemical to penetrate, target or protect the target organism.
The Department of Health and Human Services has also classified diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP), the most widely used phthalate plasticizer, as a potential carcinogen. The effects on the body are being studied in rats at this time and the findings are diverse: damage to the DNA, liver and kidneys; instigation of allergies; lightheadedness, dizziness, to name a few. The benefits of using phthalates do not outweigh the harmful effects.
HOW TO AVOID THEM
Phthalates are so widely used that to completely avoid them would be nearly impossible. However, we can focus on reducing our exposure to them. Look for un-plasticized PVC (uPVC) when fencing your fields. This type of PVC is mainly used as a hard construction material and does not contain any plasticizers.
There are numerous biological alternatives on the market. The problem is that they are typically expensive and not compatible as a primary plasticizer. A plasticizer based on vegetable oil that is compatible as a primary plasticizer has been developed.
Read your labels on your cosmetics and topical products for your animals. We can begin to protect ourselves and our animals by looking for Phthalate-Free items.