Helping women with chronic illnesses

Phthalates And Other Toxic Chemicals… What Are They And Why Should We Care??

Have you ever heard of phthalates? If so, you know that they are bad news.

Phthalates are considered “hormone disruptors”. Hormone disruptors are not healthy for anyone but endometriosis patients may want to be particularly wary of them.

Here is a passage from Our Stolen Future by Theo Colborn, Dianne Dumanoski, and John Peterson Myers (pages 223-224) regarding phthalates:

“Recent studies have implicated widely used synthetic compounds such as phthalates, an ingredient in plastics, and alkylphenol polyethoxylates, which are found in plastics, detergents, and many other products, in hormone disruption. We need a better understanding of what happens to such compounds in the environment”.

I have posted previously about a site where one can search for the safety of specific personal care products. Here is the link again to Skin Deep. It is an excellent resource for making informed choices when purchasing health and beauty products!

Phthalates are found in everything from synthetic fragrances to detergents to plastics. There is plentiful scientific evidence of the dangers of phthalates.

Here is an excerpt from a New Haven Register article “Chemicals causing fragrance can be dangerous” published on November 26, 2008 by Nancy Alderman:

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) study showed that many of the air fresheners and scented products contain phthalates. The study said “phthalates are hormone-disrupting chemicals that can be particularly dangerous for young children and unborn babies. Exposure to phthalates can affect testosterone levels and lead to reproductive abnormalities, including abnormal genitalia and reduced sperm production. … California notes that five types of phthalates — including one that we found in air freshener products — are ‘known to cause birth defects or reproductive harm.’ Young children and pregnant women should be especially careful to avoid contact with these chemicals.

Because phthalates are hormone disruptors, doctors are most concerned about exposures to pregnant women between their eighth and 15th weeks of pregnancy. It is during that period that a delicate balance of hormones directs the development of sex organs in the fetus.

For patients like me who have MCS (multiple chemical sensitivity), simply walking into a public rest room with these potent air fresheners can induce dizziness, nausea, difficulty breathing, and feeling faint. Generally, if I enter a public rest room and the smell is so intense that I immediately feel ill, I turn around and walk back out because my body goes into “fight or flight” mode simply from the strong smell.

For more articles about phthalates, see the Environmental Health News link:

According to a email on December 4, 2008:

Phthalates are used in soft plastic toys like rubber ducks and bath books and can leech out of these toys when children chew on them. Scientists worldwide have linked phthalates to EARLY ONSET OF PUBERTY IN GIRLS (a risk factor for breast cancer), birth defects in baby boys, testicular cancer and liver problems”.

This is an excerpt from a notice from

“Starting your holiday shopping this week? The LAST thing you want to be giving the children and babies on your list is dangerous chemicals like lead and arsenic. Yet, when the Ecology Center, a Michigan-based nonprofit, tested over 1,500 popular children’s toys for lead, cadmium, arsenic, PVC and other harmful chemicals, they found that one in three toys tested were found to contain “medium” or “high” levels of chemicals of concern.

Scary, right? But knowledge truly is power in this case. Before you give a child a toy this holiday season, search the HealthyToys database for its chemical test results:

Are your kids toys toxic? Find out.

When you’re at the store, you can search the HealthyToys database from your cell phone. Simply text “healthytoys [name of toy]” — for example “healthytoys Elmo” or “healthytoys Wii” — to 41411.

Then help other parents protect their kids. Print this flyer – which includes info on how to search for toys using your cell phone while you’re shopping – and post them up at work, school, the grocery, wherever you go.

Please help spread the word that toxic toys are still on store shelves by posting this flyer in public places, and passing along this information to friends and family. (And if you’re not already a member of MomsRising, please sign on now to stay informed:

Thanks for your help making this a more family-friendly country!

— Donna, Kristin, Katie, Joan, Mary, Anita, and the whole team

P.S. According to the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, toys containing toxic phthalates are supposed to be banned starting on February 10, 2009. But the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is saying that stores can continue to sell down their inventories as long as they were manufactured before the February deadline. If you haven’t already, please sign our letter to the CPSC to tell them to stop monkeying around with our kids’ health! (Already 6,443 people have signed.) Go to Phthalates are banned — We really mean it! to add your name.


Phthalates are dangerous for everyone: young, old, endometriosis patients, healthy people, pregnant women, babies, etc.

This is not just about toxic chemicals being found in 1 of 3 childrens’ toys (as appalling as that is). These chemicals affect everyone.


This article was posted by Jeanne via “Jeanne’s Endo Blog” at

This post was written by Jeanne at Copyright © Jeanne — All rights reserved.

New to blog commenting? Just click “comments” below post. (If you set up a Gravatar, your picture will show when you comment).

Reading: Phthalates And Other Toxic Chemicals… What Are They And Why Should We Care??


1 Jessica { 12.05.08 at 3:29 am }

Good job researching pthalates! Yes, they could be linked to early puberty in girls because of the fact that they are endocrine disruptors. And yes, they’re in nearly everything. As a child I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t allowed to wear perfume or perfumed lotions to the orthodontist. It was because she had MCS. I’ve learned a lot about MCS in recent years. If someone with MCS would represent the canary in the coal mine, then the rest of the world should take notice and be more choosy about the products they allow into their households! Don’t use plug in air fresheners, whether you have MCS or not! I could go on and on…

2 katery { 12.05.08 at 3:35 am }

thanks for the comment! it wasn’t THAT bad seeing the pregnant woman drink the coffee, it’s certainly not the first time i’ve seen it and i’m sure it won’t be the last!
i think it was more that her pregnancy was so worry free that she felt free to drink coffee and i know that if i ever do get pregnant i will not enjoy that same worry free feeling. jealousy.

3 Jeanne { 12.05.08 at 5:52 am }

Hi Jessica!

Thank you so much for your positive comments and for stopping by!

Yes, it is downright scary how many toxins are out in the free market!

One of the things I love about that Skin Deep database I had mentioned is that consumers can plug in a product name/brand they want info about and receive a plethora of information about the specific product they looked up.

By this means, consumers can make informed choices at the checkout/online. Many, many products (it’s mind-boggling!) contain known endocrine disruptors, carcinogens, and neurotoxins among other chemicals that put public health at risk! It just boggles the mind!

It’s interesting that you mentioned the situation with the orthodontist…

I started a local endo support group in 2001. Early on, if group members were wearing perfume, fragranced lotion, or hair products that made me feel ill, I did things like gradually edge my chair back and try to just “will myself through the meeting”.

Over time, I realized that this was simply not SAFE because there were times I drove home from meetings that I really did not feel comfortable driving!

Eventually, I did request that group members please refrain from wearing fragrances to meetings (not just for me but because many others in the group have MCS as well). I added a diplomatic comment to my email’s signature file asking the same (not using fragrances on meeting day). I never had a problem after that. Not one person complained or wore fragrances again after that.

So that was a great example of how making people aware of the issue can really get positive results.

Yes, the “canary in the coal mine” reference has been tossed around for years as an analogy for MCS patients being like the canaries. I think it is an EXCELLENT analogy!

I could not agree more with what you said about everyone needing to be more conscious of the products they use (“air fresheners”, detergents, household cleaning products, etc.) can all contain toxic materials… or ingredients known to be highly allergenic for a sizeable portion of the population).

Apparently company’s profits are put ahead of people’s health!

The fact that companies are still using known carcinogens in so many products just boggles my mind. (That Skin Deep site is truly amazing for finding which products are unsafe).

I could not agree with you more that ALL people (MCS patients or not) should give serious thought before using plug-in “air fresheners” (I always have to put that term in quotes since I don’t think toxins freshen the air myself!)

There are SO many other products that present potential harm. For example, fabric sheets for the dryer. Not only do they generate very strong smells from their chemicals (odors to my mind), but when dryers vent outdoors the chemicals enter the airstream (!) and affect others… even those who know the potential dangers of them who make a conscious choice not to use them.

I think there is a huge amount of education to be done so that the general public understands that MCS patients are NOT hypochondriacs imagining symptoms, that chemical sensitivity is very real and can be downright scary when breathing problems kick in… There’s a huge opportunity to educate the general public. MCS just keeps getting more common.

Most people just don’t have a clue that their perfume, cologne, hair products, lotion, clothes reeking of cigarettes, etc. could be making others VERY ILL. I have had to walk out of grocery stores because I simply couldn’t handle the smells. In Target, I hold my breath while passing soap/detergent aisles. Walking into stores, I hold my breath walking by people smoking in the entrance/exit door.

Arranging a haircut where I won’t be assaulted with perms, hair coloring, and “fake nail” adhesives is a real trick!

It affects me EVERY day of my life.

My sister forgot and wore perfume AND fragranced hair product to Thanksgiving dinner. I had to sit in a separate area, she changed her shirt that had perfume on it, and she washed her face with baking soda to neutralize the odor. She also ran baking soda through her hair to try to counteract the hair products’ smell. She felt really badly because she KNOWS how sick it makes me. I came very close to passing out.

By staying across the room from her, her taking the measures she did (God bless her!), and by me taking some homeopathic stuff… the symptoms eventually calmed down.

However, it’s scary when such reactions occur. Also, while I’m a firm believer that no one should ever be embarrassed of symptoms they can’t control, it IS embarrassing when such a situation turns into a bit of a “scene” with 6 people shouting across the room wanting to know why I’m not at the table… as I cower in the corner trying NOT to make a big production over it. When your own family doesn’t understand how profoundly MCS affects patients, it’s no wonder strangers don’t “get it” 98% of the time. {sigh}

MCS patients are definitely the human version of those coalmine canaries. MCS is on the rise. People need to wake up and realize that at the rate things are going… ANYONE is vulnerable to becoming an MCS patient down the line.

Symptoms can develop years after an exposure (i.e. to a pesticide). Symptoms can appear so far after a triggering event that the patient is never able to link the cause to the effect.

Interestingly, some of the larger, commercial companies that have long peddled harmful products are jumping on the “green” bandwagon to try to re-capture some of the sales they have lost to safer products. Personally, I’d rather make a trip to the health food store and buy a product I can trust than buy one of these newer products made by the “poison peddlers”.

I could go on and on too… It’s so complicated now. Years ago, once in a blue moon a public rest room had a wall-mounted air freshener (or a plug-in). Now, it’s hard to find one that does not!

With my IC, IBS, and endo… when I need to go… I need to go! However, if I feel faint before I can walk over to the stall, I need to GET OUT before I PASS OUT. These companies are making a mint convincing stores and restaurants that these sprays are imperative. It’s very sad to me. I can’t live in a bubble. Yet every time I leave my house, the risks surround me as I go…

Anyway, thanks for stopping by! It sounds like we’re on the same page on this topic!!

Jeanne 🙂

4 Jeanne { 12.05.08 at 1:36 pm }


I’m glad I found your blog. Your feelings about seeing that pregnant woman drinking coffee are very common. It is absolutely normal to feel that way.

Regardless of how “worry free” her pregnancy may be, obviously she is taking risks that doctors would not recommend.

I have a friend who writes a blog and has written about similar frustrating experiences (watching pregnant women doing things that are known to present risks). I really think you’d like her blog, Yayastuff…


Take care,


5 Jessica { 12.05.08 at 7:06 pm }

wow, that was quite a comment, great material for your next post! 🙂

I feel for you, and what a saint your sister is for washing up after forgetting about the perfumes!

I’m getting just a little sensitive to smells like chlorine bleach (I cannot eat in a restaurant where they are actively mopping around me because I lose my appetite)and perfumes on things that other people touch and I also have to use, like the headgear at the chiropractor’s office. That makes me a little dizzy and sick to my stomach. And then there are people who smoke! They cannot understand that I can still smell the cigarrette they smoked a half an hour ago in another location!

6 Jeanne { 12.05.08 at 10:29 pm }


Yeah… sometimes my comments are as long as my posts. 🙂

My sister felt really bad because she has her own sensitivities (not as severe as mine but she “gets it” to some extent).

She can tolerate fragrances that make me totally ill but there are certain smells that really bother her. So she understood that I was feeling about to faint and quickly changed her shirt. Then she and I simultaneously came up with the baking soda idea. (Thank God for baking soda)!

The scary thing is that it is believed that the type of chemicals that cause such overwhelming symptoms for MCS patients are actually unhealthy for EVERYONE.

MCS rates are going up. The more chemicals people are exposed to the higher the risk of developing MCS. With the increase in public use of such chemicals (i.e. “air fresheners”), I’m afraid that more and more people will develop MCS.

It really bothers me when such potent fragrances are used in public places. It is quite difficult to avoid them. Since avoidance is the #1 way to deal with MCS symptoms, this prevalence of such chemicals makes things really challenging for MCS patients and puts others at risk for developing it.

Yes, bleach is a very common trigger. I have a really hard time with it myself. It’s one of those smells guaranteed to make me nauseous… even from a pretty good distance.

Some perfumes are just so potent that a drop of them sends me over the edge. Years ago, my sister had one that she literally put a drop or two on thinking then it wouldn’t bother me. If I hadn’t watched her put the drop or two on, I would have sworn she had poured the whole bottle on herself. There was no quantity of that stuff I could have tolerated.

A dear friend of ours uses lots of candles and fragrances. She very generously gives us gifts. As soon as I’m home and she’s not around to see this, I have to set them in the garage to let them air out before I can bring them into the house. Seriously, I can’t have them in the house because the candle fragrance has permeated the wrapping paper and the gift inside.

It’s out of control.

Oh my goodness… smoke! I could tell you many stories about smoke (attending concerts while trapped near someone who clearly has been smoking enough to soak their clothes in the stench, not being able to give my father a simple hug because his clothes are totally saturated with the smell of smoke and the cologne he wears to attempt to cover up the smoke smell, holding my breath while entering/exiting stores because people are smoking in the doorways, etc.) The best example I can give with the smoking is probably this…

One day my husband and I were on the expressway. Thank goodness he was driving because I started to feel quite ill. I commented, “someone must be smoking”.

He looked ahead to the car in front of us and the one next to us… and no one appeared to be smoking. He said, “it must be something else”. (Everyone had their windows up as it was about 20 degrees at the time and snowing).

I insisted it was cigarette smoke. A couple of minutes later, he moved into the fast lane to pass some slower cars.

Lo and behold, the driver of the car that had been FIVE CARS ahead of us was smoking. I had smelled it 5 cars back with the windows up on the cars!

It’s hard to go to outdoor events because there’s always the threat of smoke. It’s just so terribly nauseating and induces such a severe headache! I just wish people who smoke could understand just how sick it makes some people!!

Years ago, when restaurants first started making “smoking sections” and “non-smoking sections”, I remember being blown away that the tables of each section were adjacent to each other. Then some states made laws that a glass wall must separate the 2 sections. (Of course, for someone as sensitive as me… this did little good). Now, thankfully, many states allow no smoking in restaurants. Fortunately for me, my state is one of them.

Anyway, a few years ago we went to see relatives out of state and we went to a restaurant. I had been “spoiled” by no smoking restaurants for several years by this point.

When I walked into the restaurant, I was thinking, “Oh no!! They’re allowed to smoke in this state)”. It was just terrible. (I didn’t last long in there).

Anyway, if you are starting to have sensitivities… the #1 thing is avoidance.

You can’t worry about what people will think or hurting someone’s feelings (within reason, of course).

The longer you’re exposed, the sicker you’ll get AND the stronger your reaction will be in the future.

Also, the more exposures you get, the more other things you’ll react to down the line. So try to avoid offending substances the best you can.

Unfortunately, it seems from those I know who have MCS (including me) that the sensitivities just get more pronounced and numerous over time.

From a doctor I saw where I used to live and lots of reading on my own, it’s my understanding that each person’s body has a “threshold”. Once that threshold has been met, exposures become very problematic.

Since many chemicals stay in the body once a person is exposed, toxins tend continue to accumulate throughout one’s life. So the burden on the body keeps increasing more and more over time.

There are many theories on what makes some people more prone to react to certain substances than others. Sometimes there’s a clear-cut incident and other times there isn’t.

An example of a clear-cut incident would be a person who is exposed to a pesticide who quickly starts having reactions typical of MCS.

However, many toxins damage the body far before they reveal that they have done so. So many MCS patients have no idea what triggered MCS for them.

It’s a very troubling condition!

Yes, I do need to post about MCS specifically. This has been on my to-do list for awhile! I actually have a draft post on MCS already but I haven’t finished it becuse MCS is SO hard to explain to people unfamiliar with it.

So it’s harder for me to write a thorough post about it without “over-explaining myself”. (I should probably say “without over-explaining myself more than usual”). 🙂

Seriously, I have been struggling with writing a post that does MCS justice for awhile now. I find it harder to write about than any of my other illnesses.

It’s really hard for people to grasp why the Tilex or Direct they use so faithfully could make anyone have serious trouble breathing.

It sounds “melodramatic” to some people but chemicals like this make some people extremely ill!

Try to use “the safest” products you can to minimize the number of chemicals you react to.

Even if you aren’t reacting to something, try to evaluate whether the item has the potential to at some point make you sick (i.e. an item that fits into the category of common triggers for MCS).

For example, my husband and I used to use lots of candles. While some candles bother me more than others, I used to tolerate certain candles. The number of candles I could handle dwindled to the point where I made the sad realization that I needed to avoid ALL candles.

While I miss being able to have candles in the house, it reached a point where it just wasn’t worth it anymore. Plus, I knew that the ones I wasn’t yet reacting to would probably become problematic soon enough.

So, while I miss candles, I realize that it’s definitely not worth getting sicker than I already am.

MCS may well be my most challenging illness. This is not meant to minimize the impact of any other illness. It’s just that (for me) MCS affects me every single day, affects me in profound ways, causes extreme symptoms that I generally can’t do anything about (except escape the source), etc.

It affects where I can go, what I can do, m
y ability to socialize, my ability to be out in public without having to leave somewhere abruptly to “escape” a smell, etc.

It affects me throughout the day, every day… unless I am at home being really careful.

Even at home, there are dangers. (You should have seen what happened when my husband decided to try a new dish liquid. Dear God, it was as bad as Tilex)!

Until trash day, we had to put the whole bottle out in the garage. It could NOT be in the house.

It’s just so hard for people who have not experienced it to understand just how profoundly MCS can affect patients. There are certain places I don’t even attempt to go anymore because the “fragrance risk” is just too great.


7 Susie Collins { 12.06.08 at 5:28 am }

Aloha from Hawaii! Great discussion on toxic chems and Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. Isn’t it interesting that all the products that peeps with MCS react to are now showing through studies to be highly toxic? Your blog is just FULL of good, interesting info. Keep up the good work!

8 Jeanne { 12.06.08 at 5:36 am }

Aloha Susie!

Yes, I find it most interesting that the very same chemicals that make MCS patients so very sick are testing postive for things like endocrine disruptors, neurotoxins, and even carcinogens!!

Thank you so much for your kind words. If enough people share their experiences and speak up, my hope is that our society will begin to reckon with the damage mankind has done to the Earth.

I’m so happy to hear you like the blog! Please come back to visit again sometime soon!!

Jeanne 🙂

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge