What Are Phthalates?

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Phthalates are a class of man-made chemicals that didn't exist before the 20th century. They came into being as plasticizers, things that can make plastics more supple and flexible. They also happen to help things linger in the environment, so they're used in some pesticides, and makeup and personal care products, and fragrances that people want to stay in the air.

So the top route of exposure of many of the phthalates, many of the biologically important phthalates, is through our food, yet it never shows up on an ingredient label. How does it get there? It could get there through the plastic tubing that's used, for instance, to milk a cow.

It could get there from a conveyor belt in a factory, or a plastic storage container. It could get there in the wrapping and packaging at the site of the store, or it could get there in the storage containers we use, or in microwaving in plastic in our homes. Touching certain types of plastic anywhere along the route could get phthalates into food.

Also, certain pesticides can get phthalates into food.