Drs. Oz & Roizen: The phthalate switcheroo

February 10, 2014 

In the 1973 film “The Sting,” Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman) cheats at a high-stakes poker game to set up Doyle Lonnegan (Robert Shaw).

Welcome to the high-stakes world of plastics manufacturing! In their deck of cards are phthalates, plasticizers used to make plastics soft and malleable. Problem is, they’re hormone disruptors that may cause problem such as impotence and cancer. And whenever one phthalate gets banned, it seems a substitute comes along. And before regulators ban that one, it takes the pot. For instance, when di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), dibutyl phthalate (DBP) and benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP) were banned in children’s toys and child-care articles, it reduced their usage by 37 percent. Then up popped DIBP (diisobutyl phthalate), increasing its presence 206 percent in the same products.

Avoiding phthalates isn’t easy; manufacturers don’t have to list them on labels. Your best bet?

- Look for products that say they’re phthalate-free.

- Avoid plastics with the recycling code No. 3V or 3PVC.

- Look for these abbreviations for phthalates: MEP (in personal care products to enhance fragrance), DEP (listed in the California Prop 65 as a reproductive and developmental toxicant), MiBP (nail polish), DiNP (in toys, flexible plastic toys), DiDP (ditto for DEP).

- Urge legislators to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act — this act requires safety testing for only 200 of the 84,000 chemicals in use today.

Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief medical officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. To live your healthiest, visit sharecare.com. Distributed by King Features Syndicate Inc.

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