HCWH's co-founder Gary Cohen is a recipient of the prestigious Skoll Award. This video, chronicling the evolution of HCWH's work, premiered at the 2009 Skoll World Forum. enlarge video
Phthalates and DEHP
Dangers of Phthalates and DEHP
Phthalates, a family of industrial chemicals used to soften PVC plastic and as solvents in cosmetics and other consumer products, can damage the liver, kidneys, lungs and reproductive system — particularly the developing testes — according to animal studies.
Medical devices made of flexible PVC, such as IV bags and tubing, can leach the phthalate DEHP into patients, resulting in some of the highest exposures to this toxic chemical.
Several government agencies have concluded that some patients are likely to be exposed to potentially unsafe amounts of DEHP while receiving medical care. Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health have found that sick infants treated in neonatal intensive care units have high exposure levels to this reproductive toxicant.
HCWH is working with health care providers and manufacturers to identify products that contain DEHP and replace them with safer, affordable alternatives.
Exposures Add Up
Outside the health care setting, people are exposed to DEHP and other phthalates from a variety of sources, including beauty products, PVC toys, vinyl shower curtains, car seats, wallpaper and many other consumer products.
HCWH has compiled a comprehensive report about the risks associated with aggregate exposure to phthalates (pdf).
The National Academy of Sciences in their report, Phthalates and Cumulative Risk Assessment: The Task Ahead, recommends that risks associated with phthalate exposure should be considered in the context of cumulative exposures to all phthalates and other anti-androgens. When infants, toddlers, fetuses/pregnant women are exposed to DEHP from medical devices it adds to the already existing burden of chemicals that may also interfere with normal development of the reproductive tract.
Phthalates and US Federal Regulatory Policy
Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008. In 2008, the U.S. Congress passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, which includes a federal ban on phthalates in toys and children's products, taking action to reduce exposures and protect children's health. DEHP is one of six phthalates banned from children's products through this federal legislation. (See Section SEC. 108. Prohibition on Sale of Certain Products Containing Specified Phthalates).
Phthalates in Cosmetics and Personal Care Products
The study, Baby Care Products: Possible Sources of Infant Phthalate Exposure, published in Pediatrics, 2008, indicates that infants receive widespread exposure to a variety of phthalates found in lotions and shampoos. These exposures are especially concerning for young infants who are most vulnerable to harm.
HCWH and partners have also conducted product testing and found phthalates in many top-selling beauty products. Test results are compiled in the reports:
- Not Too Pretty: Fragrance, Phthalates and the FDA (pdf)
Health Care Without Harm report finds hazardous phthalates in more than 70% of personal care products tested
- Pretty Nasty: Phthalates in European Cosmetic Products (pdf)
Health Care Without Harm, Women's Environmental Network, and the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation
For more information about phthalates in cosmetics, please visit www.SafeCosmetics.org.
- Alternatives to PVC and DEHP
- Aggregate Exposures to Phthalates in Humans: HCWH 2002 Report (pdf)
- DEHP Exposures During the Medical Care of Infants (pdf)
- Find out more about PVC-Free Building Materials (pdf)
- Health Care Institutions Moving Away from PVC/DEHP (pdf)
List compiled by Health Care Without Harm
- Neonatal Exposure to DEHP and Opportunities for Prevention (pdf)
- US FDA Public Health Notification on DEHP on the FDA website
- Weight of the Evidence on DEHP (pdf)
- Why Health Care is Moving Away from PVC (pdf)