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Consumer Tips to Reduce Phthalate Exposure

1. Avoid flexible vinyl (PVC) plastic used in kids backpacks, school supplies, rain jackets, beach balls, air mattresses, shower curtains, floor tiles and other soft plastic products. (Vinyl products are sometimes labeled with the number 3 inside a triangle above the letters "V" or "PVC").

2. Avoid personal care products that list "fragrance" as an ingredient on the label.

3. Avoid T-shirts and other clothes that have shiny colored prints, unless they were screen printed with water-based inks or phthalate-free, PVC-free plastisol ink.

4. Look for product labels that say "phthalate-free" and "PVC-free."

For many participants, this study raises more questions than answers.

Katie Mae Simpson wonders why the phthalate levels in her body are twice as high as her husband Zach Bouchard, even though the couple routinely avoids PVC plastic and personal care products with fragrance. State Representative Don Marean wants to know why his exposure to DEHP was more than 30 times higher than the typical American.

Here’s what we can safely conclude:

Mainers are widely exposed to phthalates. These chemicals were found in the bodies of all 25 Maine people tested. These results are consistent with national biomonitoring studies that have found phthalates in the bodies of virtually every American.

Phthalates cause serious health problems. A growing body of credible scientific evidence, including dozens of human health studies, have linked phthalate exposure to serious harm to reproductive health, the developing brain and immune system.

You can’t shop your way out of phthalate exposure. Our Maine participants read labels and shop carefully, yet they are still exposed to phthalates. The widespread use of phthalates and the lack of information on their presence in specific products mean that consumers can’t easily avoid phthalates on their own.

Our chemical safety system fails to protect pregnant women and children. Continued exposure to phthalates demonstrates that our federal chemical safety system is badly broken. Maine has identified several phthalates as Chemicals of High Concern, but state leaders have failed to prioritize phthalates for actions that will reduce our exposure.

These findings support a clear call to action. The Alliance strongly recommends that:

The State of Maine should act now to close the information gap. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection should use its existing authority under the Kid Safe Products Act to designate phthalates as Priority Chemicals and require manufacturers to publicly report which of their products contain specific phthalates.

The use of phthalates should be phased out in favor of safer alternatives. Consumers should demand phthalate-free products where they shop and from manufacturers. Business leaders should meet consumer demand for safer, affordable alternatives. Regulators should take action to phase out the use of all phthalates.


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