Is My Child’s Shampoo Really Making Her Fat?

My Bariatric Life Health Guide

  • Preventing Childhood Obesity


    The obesity epidemic is upon us, snatching the unsuspecting and inflating waistlines to epic proportions. Childhood obesity is part of that epidemic. Children are sedentary creatures now, rooted to computers and Playstations with bags of chips at their sides.

    But you did all that you could to protect your child’s health. You followed the guidelines and recommendations that you believed would keep her slim and healthy. You promoted good eating habits, regular physical activity, and monitored computer and video time. You kept poor quality snacks out of the house and were a model of healthy eating and lifestyle. You went as far as to use the Food Guide Pyramid for Young Children to roadmap her diet. Your child did not fit the developing stereotype of American youth.

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    And then, when you weren’t looking, the phthalates got your little girl. She began to grow, and even though her habits did not fit that developing stereotype, her appearance did. She had grown fat. You screamed, “Damn you phthalates,” into a black night, but it was too late. The damage had been done.

    Right about now you might be asking yourself exactly what are phthalates and will they get my daughter too? Therefore, I must confess my embellishment. Phthalates are not lurking down some poorly lit alleyway waiting to pounce, but they are a health problem that comes from unexpected sources and they can contribute to childhood obesity.

    What Are Phthalates?

    Phthalates are a group of chemicals that are used to soften plastic and make it pliable. They are found in a number of common products including children’s toys, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, building materials, and baby care products. 

    Phthalates can be absorbed through the skin but can also enter the body through ingestion or inhalation. They have been found in indoor air and dust, and in human urine and blood samples. They have been found in human breast milk.

    Phthalates as a Cause for Obesity

    Phthalates are also endocrine disrupting chemicals that can mimic the body’s natural hormones and play a part in childhood obesity.

    A study conducted by Mount Sinai researchers in New York measured the concentration of  phthalates in the urine of 387 black and Hispanic children in New York City. Body measurements were recorded one year later.

    Ninety-seven percent of the children had been exposed to phthalates, and an association was found between concentration of these phthalates and BMI and weight circumference among overweight children.

    In addition, data collected from about 2900 children was reviewed, and it  was discovered that black children with a three-fold increase in phthalate breakdown were 20 percent more likely to be either overweight or obese.

    How to Avoid Phlhalates

    Avoiding phthalates consists of a bit of common sense and a bit of information. First, simply read the ingredients in the products you buy. Phlhalates can be identified by their chemical names or abbreviations.

    DBP and DEP are found in personal care products such as colognes or shampoos. DEHP is used in PVC plastics. BzBP is found in care products and personal care products. DMP is used in insect repellent.

  • Be alert to the term fragrance which could be an indicator that the product in question contains phthalates.

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    Select plastic with the recycling code 1, 2 or 5. Codes 3 and 7 are more likely to contain phthalates.


    Living life well-fed,


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Published On: February 16, 2013