Down the Drain

Water pollution caused by cosmetic chemicals, cleaning supplies and plastics

July 12, 2007

Down the Drain: What You Can Do

Protect yourself and San Francisco Bay from harmful hormone-disrupting chemicals

Choosing products that do not contain hormone-disrupting chemicals may benefit your health and the health of your family, and can reduce the amounts of these chemicals entering San Francisco Bay. You can make safer choices each time you prepare a meal, wash dishes, wash clothes, or take a shower. Extend these choices to your workplace to create a larger health impact for people and the Bay.

To reduce exposures to phthalates:

  • Use nail polish and other beauty products that do not contain "dibutyl phthalate" (DBP) – check the ingredient list.
  • Use personal care products, detergents, cleansers, and other products that do not contain "fragrance" in the ingredient list – "fragrance" commonly includes the phthalate DEP.
  • Avoid cooking or microwaving in plastic.
  • Use a non-vinyl shower curtain.
  • Use paints and other hobby products in well-ventilated areas.
  • Give children wooden and other phthalate-free toys, and don't let children chew on soft plastic toys.
  • Health care workers and patients can urge their medical facilities to reduce or eliminate use of products containing phthalates.
  • Avoid products made of flexible PVC or vinyl plastic. A few examples of these products include PVC lawn furniture, vinyl raincoats, flexible PVC building materials, vinyl shower curtains, and toys for kids or pets made of PVC.

For more information on safe cosmetics, visit Skin Deep, EWG's database of thousands of personal care products, each with its own safety rating based on dozens of toxicity and regulatory databases.

For more information about dibutyl phthalate in nail polish, see EWG's reports:
·Beauty Secrets
·Not Too Pretty

For more information on eliminating phthalates in medicine, visit Health Care without Harm

To reduce exposures to bisphenol A, and to the epoxy resin made from bisphenol A:

  • Cut down on canned foods. To keep food from reacting with the metal of the can, a plastic coating made from bisphenol A is commonly applied to the inside of the can. This coating appears as a solid color on the inside of the can, and can leach into the food stored inside.
  • Avoid eating or drinking from polycarbonate plastics – used in such products as hard plastic baby bottles, 5 gallon water cooler bottles, hard plastic water bottles, plastic silverware, and Lexan products. You can check for the type of plastic on the bottom of the bottle – polycarbonate bottles may be labeled with recycling number 7 ("Other" type of plastic) or may contain the letters "PC" below the recycling symbol. Bisphenol A may leach out of these types of bottles into your beverage or food. Alternatives include bottles and other materials made from glass, stainless steel, or polypropylene bottles labeled number 5 on the bottom (translucent, not transparent).

For more ways to avoid BPA exposure, see EWG's list of Consumer Tips

For more information on BPA in cans, see EWG's report:
Bisphenol A: Toxic plastics chemical in canned food

To reduce exposures to triclosan:

  • Avoid unnecessary use of "antibacterial" products (read the list of ingredients). The American Medical Association recommends against using "antibacterial" products in the home (Tan 2002). Studies indicate that households that use these products are no healthier than those that use soap and water and other typical cleansing products (Larson 2003; FDA 2005).
  • If you need to use an antimicrobial skin disinfectant, use an alcohol hand rub or rinse product that does not list triclosan or "fragrance" in the ingredients.

EWG's Skin Deep database lists personal care products with and without triclosan.