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JAMA Pediatrics Patient Page
January 2014

Phthalate Exposure and Health Risks

JAMA Pediatr. 2014;168(1):96. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.3319

Phthalates are a group of chemicals that are present in many household items. These chemicals are often used to make plastics more flexible and harder to break, and sometimes they are used to dissolve other materials. Phthalates are present in hundreds of products, including vinyl flooring, plastic clothes such as raincoats, and personal care products such as shampoos. In laboratory experiments, women often have higher levels of phthalates compared with men; this is thought to be linked to women’s higher uses of personal products such as lotions, cosmetics, and hair products. Phthalates are often present in children’s toys.

People get close exposure to phthalates by eating and drinking foods that have touched containers and products that are made of phthalates, especially microwaving foods that are in phthalate-laden containers. Young children may have a greater risk of being in contact with phthalates by putting toys or other things that contain phthalates in their mouths.