Two hidden Toxicants that can end up in your food and body are Phthalates and Microplastics. These are not things that will show up on ingredients lists, so it’s important to be aware of where they come from and how to avoid them.
Phthalates are used to make plastics flexible, and are used as lubricants in cosmetics. They can leach into food from packaging and processing.
How to pronounce it?
I’ve heard the pronunciation vary, but most often I hear it spoken like the first two speakers in this video: https://youtu.be/idFklS_e80o; “tha-lates” as if you were starting to say “that.” Other sources claim it is pronounced Thail-ates, or starting with an F sound, as f-THAL-lates.
According to a lawsuit discussed below, “ortho-phthalates” (or just “phthalates”) have been linked to myriad health issues, including asthma, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, breast cancer, obesity, type II diabetes, low IQ, neurodevelopmental issues, behavioral issues, autism spectrum disorders, altered reproductive development, and male fertility issues, and are especially dangerous when consumed by pregnant women and children.
They have also been linked to liver disease and have been shown to affect the development of secondary sexual characteristics in pubertal girls (Source).
Food is a major source of phthalate exposure, especially meats, dairy, and bread. Although these chemicals are fat-soluble, the highest levels are found in bread, which is not a fatty food. The source of food contamination is most likely the packaging in the food is wrapped, although some adulteration during the industrial production process is also possible. Phthalates are also in supplements. Scientific paper about phthalates in food here.
Dairy is one of the most prevalent ways phthalates get into your body. They are in all milk basically, as many harmful chemicals concentrate in animal fat. Dairy is especially problematic because of the tubing used to pump the milk out of cows. Very few farms use stainless steel tubing…some raw milk farms have been known to do that but I’ve never heard of it in an normal or organic dairy farm.
Processed powder cheese (such as in Mac and cheese boxes) is worst, followed by regular cheese, then milk, then yogurt has the least last I checked, especially the types with fat removed.
What about plant based milks as an alternative to dairy milk? The method for producing nut milk is totally different from how dairy cows are milked. Likely, there is still some exposure to plastic in the process, but if the nut milk isn’t warm (like cow milk is), that will reduce some leaching of phthalates and other plasticizers. And with lower fat content, nut milk will absorb fewer toxins as well. Bottom line: I would assume plant milk is far less contaminated with phthalates.
About the lawsuit against Annie’s Mac and Cheese: Annie’s is not the particular issue here; phthalates in general are. Switching to a different brand of Mac and cheese is unlikely to help. I’m skeptical how far this lawsuit will get because it’s assumed that all dairy products (even organic/ pasture raised/ grass fed, etc) have phthalates, from the pvc tubing used in milk production.
Also, unfortunately the lawsuit doesn’t have much to grounds to go from, as I couldn’t find any requirements for warning labels about phthalates in food. Even prop 65 doesn’t mention it here concerning food products.. Therefore Annie’s technically isn’t violating any laws by having high phthalates. Lawsuit info here.
If you want to try to LESSEN phthalates for Mac and cheese specifically, you could make a homemade sauce with fresh cheese instead of powdered (which has 4x the amount of phthalates–likely because of additional processing). The more processing, the more inadvertent chemicals end up in a food.
You could also look into vegan versions of Mac and cheese, but I’d be wary of that too, as they are still highly processed and more likely to contain unnatural ingredients. Annies makes one and the ingredients aren’t the worst things ever, but I still avoid many of them.
To reduce phthalates exposure (Tips from Branch Basics):
- Store your food and water in paper or glass that is free of plastic. Replace plastic water bottles, Tupperware, utensils, wraps, cutting boards, plates and silverware, with glass or stainless-steel counterparts. [Here is the Clean Green Toxicant Free post with storage container options]
- Eat organic produce as much as possible to reduce your contact with toxic pesticides.
- Try to source animal products from organic, pasture-raised and 100% grass-fed and grass-finished sources.
- Invest in a quality water filter [Clean Green Toxicant Free has a post here]
- Replace your personal care products with toxin-free ones! Be your own advocate and vet products via the EWG’s Skin Deep Database.
- Avoid products with fragrance. Learn more about our passion for going fragrance-free in The Emotional Attachment To Fragrance and Fragrance Is The New Secondhand Smoke | Eliminate Synthetic Fragrance To Improve Your Health
“The elimination of phthalates in their entirety is impossible to achieve given their prevalence in our everyday environments. However, removing sources where you can in your household and making non-toxic swaps can dramatically improve your health and wellbeing! A study of 100 teenagers showed that just three days after the removal of only skin care products with phthalates, there was a 28% reduction of phthalates in the urine.”
Other sources of phthalates include sanitary pads and diapers. As sanitary pads and diapers are in direct contact with external genitalia for an extended period, there is a probability that a considerable amount of VOCs or phthalates could be absorbed into the reproductive system (Source).
The article where the following information is from is concerning the this type of plastic: Polyethylene terephthalate (PET; used to make disposable plastic water bottles and other containers) microplastic particles. Do be aware that and all types of plastic can eventually become micro particles, and also be aware that synthetic fabric such as polyester is made from plastic, and creates polyester dust.
“Scientific articles analyzed the passage of microplastics into the gut and the brain and how this may relate to changes in the gut’s microbiota community and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The studies demonstrated that several of the tested nano- and microplastics disrupted barrier integrity and induced pro-inflammatory cell activation.”
“Microplastic feeding affects both composition and diversity of colonic microbial communities.” Based on their findings the authors think “that microplastics are indeed capable of digestive-level health effects.” They hypothesized that the particles were digested in the stomach, deposited into the gut and that only smaller PE fragments transitioned into the brain and accumulated there.
“Previous studies have reported that exposure to endocrine disruptors can lead to autistic features (FPF reported) and that prenatal exposure to androgens may disrupt brain development, leaving males more susceptible to ASD (FPF reported). Furthermore, exposure to toxic metals such as lead, mercury, and aluminum, was also linked to ASD (FPF reported).”
Other posts on microplastics can be found in the Clean Green Toxicant Free Facebook albums here and here. Check out the articles about microplastics found in baby bottle, baby poop and placentas!
To avoid microplastics, you can:
1. Avoid using food or beverages that are packaged in plastic
2. Use baby products such as glass baby bottles, and avoiding plastic teethers.
3. Reduce the creation of microplastics by reducing your usage of all forms of plastic.
4. Buy organic cotton or natural fabrics rather than synthetics (which are a form of plastic), such as polyester or microfiber. Here is my post about that.
5. Install a microplastic filter on your washing machine.
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