Phthalates, pronounced [THA-lāts] What they are: Chemicals, including diethyl phthalate (DEP), dibutyl phthalate (DBP), and di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), added to vinyl and other plastics to increase flexibility and to personal-care products to keep their fragrances
Where they are: Anything vinyl; most soaps, lotions, and hair products, especially those with "fragrance" or "parfum" in their ingredients -- all of which may off-gas or degrade, releasing phthalate particles into household dust. Phthalates were banned for use in products for kids under 3 by the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, but they're still lurking in many other plastic toys, and any baby products made before the ban.
The risks: "Exposure to phthalates is associated with reduced testosterone levels in kids and adults," notes Tracey Woodruff, Ph.D., director of the Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment at the University of California, San Francisco. Researchers at the University of Rochester have found that prenatal phthalate exposure correlated with subtle signs of feminization (like undescended testicles) in baby boys and less masculine behavior as the boys got older. In April, a study at Mount Sinai's Children's Environmental Health Center also found that children exposed to phthalates in the womb were more likely to exhibit symptoms of ADHD between the ages of 4 and 9.