Phthalates are esters of plastic used to add flexibility and help dissolve other ingredients. They are also used in industrial adhesives, and in medical and consumer goods made with polyvinyl chloride plastic (PVC). Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate is listed as a substance "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen" in the Eleventh Report on Carcinogens, published by the National Toxicology Program. The human health effects of phthalates are not yet fully known, but are being studied by several government agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, and the National Toxicology Program's Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction. Current levels of seven phthalates studied by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences posed "minimal" concern for causing reproductive effects. However, the National Toxicology Program concluded that high levels of one phthalate, di-n-butyl phthalate, may adversely affect human reproduction or development. High levels of exposure to di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate through the use of medical tubing and other plastic devices for feeding, medicating, and assisting the breathing of newborn infants, may affect the development of the male reproductive system, according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

Fragrance Oils and Neurotoxicity

Although the International Fragrance Association generally regards fragrance oils as safe, we do not use any fragrance oil with phthalates due to scholarship which strongly suggests that phthalates do have neurotoxic potential. This scholarship goes back to 1986 when the National Academy of Sciences targeted synthetic fragrances as one of the six categories of chemicals that should be given high priority for neurotoxicity testing. The report states that 95 percent of chemicals used in fragrances are synthetic compounds derived from petroleum. They include benzene derivatives, aldehydes, and many other known toxics and sensitizers, which are capable of causing cancer, birth defects, central nervous system disorders and allergic reactions.


DiGangi, J., Schettler, T., Cobbing, M., & Rossi, M. (2002, July). Aggregate exposures to phthalates in humans. Health Care without Harm. Retrieved from http://www.fda.gov/ohrms/dockets/dailys/02/Dec02/120502/02d-0325-c000018-02-vol1.pdf

Neurotoxins: At Home and the Workplace (Report by the Committee on Science and Technology. US House of Representatives, Sept. 16, 1986) [Report 99-827]

Tox Town. (2012, January). Phthalates. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved from http://toxtown.nlm.nih.gov/text_version/chemicals.php?id=24