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The All-Bullshit List of Product Claims: Phthalate FREE

The All-Bullshit List of Product Claims: Phthalate FREE

What are Phthalates?

A group of chemicals with a variety of functions depending on the particular  phthalate. They are, and in some cases ‘were’, used in all kinds of products -  from plastic to flooring, pharmaceuticals to food packaging, and of course, cosmetics and personal care. More often than not, they are used to make plastics more durable. 

Since our concern is personal care products, there are only 3 phthalates that have historically been relevant. Diethyl Phthalate (DEP), which is used as a solvent (to help dissolve other materials), often in fragrance. Dimethyl Phthalate (DMP), which forms a flexible film in hair care products. And Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP), which acts as a plasticizer to reduce brittleness and cracking in things like nail polish. 

The only phthalate still in use in personal care - worldwide! - is diethyl phthalate (DEP), which can be used without restriction because of its good safety profile. Since 2007, DBP and DMP have been phased out due to concerns around endocrine disruption. They are no longer relevant. 

 

Are phthalates dangerous?

Consider mushrooms. Some you can eat, some are poisonous. 

This is exactly the case with phthalates. But, unfortunately, because of general statements about phthalates and confusion around what's actually in cosmetics and what’s actually covered by regulations, all phthalates have been an easy target for fear-mongering.

Time and time again, study after study, regardless of what country’s regulatory body is concerned, or what research lab has been used, the same conclusions continually come up. 

DEP is perfectly fine, is regulated as such, and continues to be used without issue.

DBP was next to perfectly fine, but - better safe than sorry and restricted nonetheless. The risks associated with DBP weren't even all that relevant to cosmetics. They were concerned with food and consumption as the primary form of exposure, i.e consuming foods that have contacted products containing phthalates - like packaging. Some exposure can also occur from breathing phthalate particles in the air - dust etc. And children crawl around and touch many things, then put their hands in their mouths. 

Additionally, when analyzed in animals, eating large amounts affects reproductive ability.

Is any of this applicable to personal care products? Not really. Even the trace amounts that would have been used in cosmetics like nail polish pass every safety test. 

Regardless of all of this, DBP and DMP are banned! No need for concern no matter how you slice it.

 

So what’s all the fuss about?

Great question. To which the answer is actually quite simple. This is and has been a classic case of opportunistic people preying on misinformed people.

Do most people know that there are different types of phthalates with different chemical profiles that affect different things? No. Do most people care? No. Should they? Yes. 

This is quite literally all that has happened. 

There were 3 common phthalates. One was discovered to be dangerous and banned. The other was discovered to be somewhat dangerous under specific conditions, and was banned across the board anyways. The other is perfectly fine.

Despite only one - the one that was, is, and will always be safe - even being in the marketplace, they have all been lumped together, and demonized as such.

Imagine someone tried to tell you that beautiful grilled portobello was poisonous because other mushrooms were too? 

 

Does Basic Maintenance use phthalates?

No. But again, we could and all would be perfectly fine. This just happens to be yet another instance of fear-mongering that has prevailed to the point it’s nearly impossible for young, start-up brands to risk using them. Public perception and consumer demands - no matter how misguided they may be - are still real factors to consider when formulating a product. With a strong majority of consumers convinced about the damaging effects of phthalates, we felt it necessary to avoid them.

 

Sources

 

Full ECHA Dossier on Dibutyl Phthalate https://echa.europa.eu/documents/10162/04f79b21-0b6d-4e67-91b9-0a70d4ea7500

Official report from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission on Dibutyl Phthalate https://www.cpsc.gov/s3fs-public/ToxicityReviewOfDBP.pdf

SCCS (2007) Opinion on Phthalates in Cosmetic Products https://ec.europa.eu/health/ph_risk/committees/04_sccp/docs/sccp_o_106.pdf

Australian Government. (2008) Existing Chemical Hazard Report, Dibutyl Phthalate. https://www.industrialchemicals.gov.au/sites/default/files/Dibutyl%20phthalate%20DBP.pdf

EPA (2000) Leaflet on Dibutyl Phthalate https://www.epa.gov/sites/default/files/2016-09/documents/dibutyl-phthalate.pdf

US department of health and human services.(2001) Toxicological Profile for DI-n-ButylPhthalate.  https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxprofiles/tp135.pdf