Convenience is killing us.
With the click of a button, you can get household items, clothes, groceries, takeout, and more delivered right to you, so you never have to leave the house.
But research is piling up proving that many of the things we order contain toxic chemicals called phthalates. Phthalates are chemicals added to plastic and vinyl to make them more flexible. Because of their structure, they easily leach out of the plastic into whatever the plastic contains, including our food.
I first warned readers about the dangers of phthalates back in 2007 in my old S&A Health Report.
Years of research on the chemicals have linked them to obesity, cancer, and even male sterility.
Worse, the research now indicates that phthalates not only act as hormone disruptors but also trigger chemicals in our bodies that signal inflammation, called cytokines. A 2004 study from Copenhagen found that human cells exposed to phthalates released two cytokines – IL-6 and IL-8. Both of these are key signaling chemicals in the immune system.
A paper published in 2017 in Environmental Research found that men with higher levels of phthalates in their urine had more chronic diseases, including Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. That's after accounting for the 82% of the subjects who were overweight.
Although it's not a direct-cause paper, the researchers think that the findings point to other studies about cytokines. Remember, heart disease and diabetes come from chronic inflammation... so consuming too many phthalates makes sense as a contributing factor.
And just last month, we've seen even more proof...
A new study, led by researchers from New York University's Grossman School of Medicine, concluded that phthalates in common items like children's toys, cosmetics, and food containers contribute to more than 90,000 deaths each year in folks aged 55 to 64.
Researchers found that study participants with higher levels of phthalates in their urine had a greater risk of dying prematurely from any cause.
Another study, published last month in the Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology, found these chemicals are leaking into our food.
Researchers took food samples from major fast-food chains McDonald's, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Dominos, Chipotle, and Taco Bell. Out of the 64 samples, every one contained some type of phthalate, with the highest amounts in burgers and burritos. Cheese pizzas had the lowest amounts of phthalates.
According to research, the phthalates likely come from either the packaging materials for the food or the plastic gloves workers wear when handling the food. It's a small study and we're not yet sure how harmful the levels of phthalates found are to our health on their own.
But it's clear that if you're eating fast food, ultra-processed packaged food, and using any number of the household goods we've previously mentioned, you're getting near-constant exposure to phthalates. Even just drinking bottled water has risks...
Phthalates are also in disposable plastic water bottles. The average American uses 156 plastic bottles every year.
Plastic water bottles are a huge waste... and they're packed with both phthalates and another chemical, BPA. BPA is another hormone disruptor, which I've also warned you about many times.
We know folks who use several plastic water bottles every day. Not only is that a lot of chemicals in your water, but it's also a huge waste of money. At an average of $1.18 per gallon for bottled water, you're paying 300 times the cost of tap water.
That's why I advise using a water filter if you don't like the taste of your tap water. You should only use bottled water in emergencies. I recommend filling non-BPA plastic or aluminum bottles instead.
Although phthalates seem ubiquitous, we can curb some of our exposure. Avoid ultra-processed packaged food, ditch the plastic bottles, and don't use hygiene products with "fragrance" on the ingredients list. Oftentimes, the fragrance will contain some form of phthalates. Try to pass on products that list one of the many forms of phthalates (such as dimethyl phthalate or diethyl phthalate) on their ingredient lists.
What We're Reading...
- Phthalates are costing us tens of billions of dollars each year.
- Something different: How to fight the winter blues (video).
Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,
Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
November 18, 2021