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Follow your nose! Did you know that one of the most ubiquitous toxins in our homes can often be detected with a simple sniff test?

Austin Green Cleaning specialistPhthalates are a huge class of chemicals (including DEHP, DINP, DBP, DEP) used as softeners, or plasticizers, in PVC products, as well as solvents and other additives in a wide range of consumer products. They can be found in almost anything from deodorant and shampoo to vinyl flooring, lunch boxes, toys and pacifiers. And, because of how common they are, phthalates frequently aren’t listed on product labels, making them difficult to avoid.

Why be concerned phthalates?

Research on phthalates is ongoing, but in recent years, scientists have linked phthalates to asthma, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, breast cancer, obesity and type II diabetes, low IQ, neurodevelopmental issues, behavioral issues, autism spectrum disorders, altered reproductive development and male fertility issues in laboratory animals.

In response, regulators have taken some steps to protect families from exposure. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, in 2012 congress permanently banned three types of phthalates: DEHP, DBP, and BBP in any amount greater than 0.1 percent from children’s toys and child care articles. It also placed an interim ban on three additional phthalates: DINP, DIDP, and DnOP in any amount greater than 0.1 percent from toys and care articles (pacifiers, teething rings) that can be placed in a child’s mouth.

However, these laws cover only a small portion of phthalates in our homes. So if we want to limit our family’s exposure to them, we have to take matters into our own hands — or noses.

One of the first and most effective steps consumers can take is the sniff test. Phthalates often hide in fragrances as they’re commonly used to extend the life of the scent. The words “fragrance” or “parfum” on a product label are umbrella terms for a whole range of chemical ingredients which likely include phthalates.

Consider discarding any products with fragrance in them from your home including air fresheners, personal care items, cosmetics and perfumes unless their labels specifically state that the product does not contain synthetic fragrance or phthalates. Norwex has taken care to use only phthalate-free fragrances in everything from its Cleaning Paste and Leather Shine to the Natural Deodrant Stick, Sportzyme and Wrinkle Release. Try Norwex’s Fresheners to eliminate unpleasant household odors or our essential oils to make everything smell fresh and clean. You can also check out the Environmental Working Group’s website for a database of safe personal care products that do not include these toxins.

Follow your nose and beware of the “new car smell” or plastic smell that can often be detected on rain gear, backpacks or soft plastic toys. What you are smelling is most likely phthalates. (Though there are fewer phthalates in newer children’s products, anything made before 2009 is still suspect.)

Environmental health experts recommend avoiding the use of plastic products in the home in general, especially those that come into contact with food and those with a 3 or 7 recycling label. Try Norwex’s Pitch the Plastic Pack. It will cover most of your basis and keep your food contaminant-free!

Finally, get yourself a water filter. (Try the Norwex Water Filtration System.) It will rid your water of DEHP, a phthalate used in water pipes, and alleviate worries about a whole range of chemicals and toxins.

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