Phthalates are chemicals most known for increasing durability of plastics and can be found in tubing, food wraps, food packaging, vinyl flooring/shower curtains, and some toys. Phthalates also help dissolve other materials, so they are used in a variety of other applications such as cosmetics, soaps, shampoos, lubricating oils, and hair spray.
Exposure to phthalates most commonly occurs from eating/drinking foods that have been in contact with phthalates (e.g. plastic containers or packaging), but exposure can also occur from breathing in phthalates from the air, or through the skin from topical products. Fragrance oils have been reported to contain phthalates, and these oils can be found in some perfumes and candles. Inside the body, phthalates are broken down into metabolites that leaves the body via urine. Research has found that adult women have higher phthalate metabolites measured in urine than adult men because of overall increased use of body washes, shampoos, cosmetics, and personal care products. 1 Children can also have increase phthalate exposure because of increased hand-to-mouth activity and faster breathing rate than adults.2