Coconut Oils Tested for Toxic Phthalates -- Buying Guide (2024)

Which coconut oils have the least phthalate contamination? Phthalates are hormone-disrupting chemicals in plastics that find their way into many foods and personal care products. To solve this puzzle, Mamavation sent several of the most popular coconut oils off to an EPA-certified laboratory to test for several types of phthalates to find out. You’ve trusted Mamavation to cover topics like safest olive oils tested for phthalates, safest salt sans heavy metals and microplastics,safest cookware without PFAS “forever chemicals” and nanoparticles, andsafest water purifiers that filter PFAS, now join us for another consumer study on coconut oils and hormone-disrupting phthalates.

Disclosure: This consumer study is released in partnership withEnvironmental Health News.Scientific reviews were performed by (1)Terrence Collins, Teresa Heinz Professor of Green Chemistry & Director of theInstitute for Green Sciencesat Carnegie Mellon University, (2)Linda S. Birnbaum, Scientist Emeritus and Former Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and National Toxicology Program & Scholar in Residence at Duke University, Adjunct Professor at the University of North Carolina, & Yale University, & (3)PeteMyers,Chief Scientist at Environmental Health Sciences, Adjunct Professor of Chemistry at Carnegie Mellon University, and Co-Author ofOur Stolen Future.This post was medically reviewed by Sondra Strand, RN, BSN, PHN. Donations were provided by Environmental Health News and Mamavation community members. Note that Mamavation has only “spot-checked” the industry and thus we cannot make predictions about brands and products that we have not tested. Products and manufacturing aides can change without notice so buyer beware. This post contains affiliate links, with most to Amazon, which means Mamavation will receive a portion of those sales and we will use that to pay ourselves back for the testing. You can also give a tax-deductible donation to our consumer studiesherethrough Environmental Health Sciences. Thank you! Copyright © 2024 Mamavation — All Rights Reserved

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Table of Contents

Phthalates Found in Popular Coconut Oils

Mamavation’s EPA-certified laboratory found phthalates in 7 popular coconut oils. These chemicals are linked to serious health effects, which we will discuss later. Because phthalates are so problematic to hormones, Mamavation has commissioned our own scientific studies on phthalates in food products to make recommendations forthe safest coconut oils. Continue reading Mamavation’s article on these products to find which brands have the lowest amounts of phthalates according to our laboratory.

For this consumer study,Mamavation sent 7 popular coconut oils from 7 brands to an EPA-certified laboratory looking for phthalates. Because Mamavation only tested one product per brand, we cannot claim to know if these issues are, in fact, industry-wide or portfolio-wide. However, based on our “spot-check” of the industry, this is what we found:

  • 100% of coconut oils analyzed by our laboratory had traces of phthalates. This is a total of 7 detections from 7 coconut oil products.
  • Ranges of phthalates werefrom 134 parts per billion (ppb) to 1,331 ppb. Based on the amounts presented, we created 3 categories to communicate levels of phthalates found: (1) Coconut oils with the most contamination, (2) Coconut oils with intermediate contamination, & (3) Coconut Oils with the least contamination. These categories are not based on health impacts. They are based on presenting data and where the middle ground lies in each category. We then added one result from Defend Our Health’s study on phthalates to give our audience more variety in choices.
  • 14% of coconut oil products had over 800 ppb phthalates. That’s 1 out of 7 bottles of coconut oils over 800 ppb. We dubbed this the “Coconut oils with the most contamination” realm.
  • 29% of coconut oil products had between 400 ppb and 800 ppb phthalates. That’s 2 out of 7 bottles of coconut oil between 400 ppb and 800 ppb. We dubbed this the “Coconut oils with intermediate contamination” realm.
  • 57% of coconut oil products had less than 400 ppb phthalates. That’s 4 out of 7 bottles of coconut oil that had below 400 ppb. We dubbed this the “Coconut oils with the least contamination” realm.
  • Although coconut oil had detections 100% of the time, those detections were significantly less than what we found in olive oil. The range for olive oil was 655 parts per billion (ppb) to 6,092 ppb. This leads us to believe that coconut oil manufacturing may be “cleaner” overall in terms of phthalate contamination at this moment in time.

In other words, all bottles of coconut oil we sent to the lab had traces of phthalates, however, it was consistently lower than what we found in olive oils. If you are using coconut oil to prepare meals for your family or as personal care, this investigation will be very important to follow to reduce your family’s exposure to phthalates. However, as you can see, every coconut oil manufacturer whose products Mamavation studied has work to do to remove phthalates from their products. None of the coconut oils that were tested by Mamavation or by Defend Our Health had zero detections of phthalates.

Phthalates are typically found inside plastics and in undisclosed fragrances. When in plastics, they work to make the plastic more flexible. When they are in fragrances, they help carry the scent longer in the air. These chemical contaminants are found in many types of products that are involved in the food service industrylike food service gloves, tubing used in dairy operations, hoses, holding tanks, and conveyor belts inside manufacturing plants. In fact, there are so many places where phthalates can show up because they arelegal indirect food additivesused in manufacturing for both conventional AND organic foods. There is some movement to restrict some ortho-phthalate chemicals from food packaging but not from manufacturing in general.

Linda S. Birnbaum, Scientist Emeritus and Former Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and National Toxicology Program & Scholar in Residence at Duke University, Adjunct Professor at the University of North Carolina, & Yale University had this to say about the study after her review: “Phthalates cause multiple adverse health effects, including developmental effects in the reproductive system and neurotoxicity. There is also evidence for causing cancer in laboratory animals.”

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Types of Phthalates Found in Our Coconut Oil Study

Our laboratory found five different types of phthalates in the coconut oil we sent to them. Here’s a brief breakdown of each one.

  • Dicyclohexyl Phthalate (DCHP): DCHP is a Phthalate ester (PAEs) and a type of persistent organic pollutant (POP). It’s a phlegmatizer (i.e. lowers the excitement of molecules and keeps them from exploding) and dispersion agent, used in adhesives, as a sealant or in textile printing, as a co-plasticizer in PVC, rubber, and other plastics. This phthalate is classified as toxic for reproduction and has endocrine-disrupting properties and has also been linked to high cholesterol, & cardiovascular disease.
  • Di-2-ethylhexyl Phthalate (DEHP): DEHP is a highly toxic endocrine disruptor. It was also the most common phthalate found by our lab. Found commonly in building products (wallpaper, wire, and cable insulation), clothing (footwear, raincoats), car products, food packaging, medical devices, and children’s products (toys, grip bumpers). This chemical is also found on California’s Prop. 65 list of carcinogens and reproductive toxicants. In addition, it’s been linked to endocrine disruption, reproductive issues, developmental issues, liver & kidney toxicity, asthma & allergies, & thyroid problems.
  • Dimethyl Phthalate (DMP): This phthalate is a short-branched low molecular weight phthalate. It’s found commonly in safety glass, lacquer coatings, insect repellents, cosmetics, ink, soap, and household cleaning products. This phthalate has been linked to weight gain among other health problems via animal studies such as endocrine disruption, reproductive issues, liver & kidney toxicity, & cancer concerns.
  • Diisodecyl phthalate (DIDP): Found commonly in PVC plastics, artificial leather, toys, carpet backing, covering on wires and cables, and pool liners. This chemical is also on California’s Prop. 65 list of carcinogens and reproductive toxicants. It’s also associated with health concerns including liver & kidney toxicity, developmental issues, endocrine disruption, reproductive issues, asthma & allergies, & thyroid problems.
  • Bis(2-propylheptyl) Phthalate (DPHP): This type of phthalate is a substitute for other high molecular weight phthalates used primarily for high-temperature applications such as cable wires, roofing membranes, and food containers. It is used to soften plastics and is a general-use plasticizer under investigation as an endocrine disruptor. This phthalate is associated with additional health concerns like reproductive toxicity, prenatal, perinatal, & post-natal toxicity, and genotoxicity.

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Additional Studies Finding Phthalates in Cooking Oils

Anotherscientific reportco-authored by our friends atDefend Our Healthpublished in theJournal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiologyfound phthalates in a range of popular children’s foods and organic products in 2023. Included in this report was 1 coconut oil.

Mamavation took the results from this report and added it to our list of recommendations at the bottom of this post for your review, which was one additional result. However, all coconut oils & olive oils tested by Defend Our Health also had trace amounts of phthalates. It’s not so much a question of whether there are phthalates present in coconut oils & olive oils. It’s a matter of what levels are present. Both of our studies confirmed that these cooking oils have different levels of phthalates present.

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Phthalates Have Specific Problematic Health Effects

Phthalates are linked to many health effects from several studies on both animals and humans. This is very problematic because phthalates are linked with hormone disruption of the endocrine system, which regulates the body’s hormones, even in trace amounts in low concentrations. Epidemiological studies have revealed that exposure to phthalates adversely affects the level of hormones within the body, which can impact several important health functions. Here are some health effects phthalate exposure is linked to.

Terrence Collins, Teresa Heinz Professor of Green Chemistry & Director of the Institute for Green Sciences at Carnegie Mellon University had this to say about the study during his scientific review: “An earlier Mamavation study found that olive oils are contaminated with phthalates. It is simply deplorable to now learn that Mamavation is finding endocrine-disrupting phthalates in coconut oils. I use coconut oil as a butter substitute which I purchase thinking that it will be better for health than butter. And I feed it to our pets to improve their skin and coats. It’s so disappointing to learn that my good intentions may be doing more harm than good. Phthalates are anti-androgens—they disrupt male hormone action. Currently, highly chemicalized countries like America are experiencing a steady drop in male fertility, quantified through a population-level decline in mean sperm count and quality. Phthalate exposures are suspected of playing a role in the declines. Phthalate contamination of food oils is completely unacceptable! Like the olive oil manufacturers, the coconut oil manufacturers should begin acting to better protect their customers by rummaging through every aspect of their supply and manufacturing chains to ensure that all phthalates are eliminated. And then they should learn much more about endocrine disruption and become extremely diligent in producing products that are free of endocrine-disrupting chemicals. One has to wonder why the FDA appears to be asleep on the job.”

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How are Phthalates Regulated in the Food Supply & Children’s Products?

Because phthalates are so problematic to human health, there are varying restrictions on products and food at the federal level. There is, however, no consistency among federal agencies to protect the public. For instance, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) restricts certain phthalates within children’s toys and childcare products. They prohibit the import and sale of those products that contain more than 0.1% of the following phthalates:

  • di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP)
  • dibutyl phthalate (DBP)
  • benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP)
  • diisononyl phthalate (DINP)
  • diisobutyl phthalate (DIBP)
  • di-n-pentyl phthalate (DPENP)
  • di-n-hexyl phthalate (DHEXP)
  • dicyclohexyl phthalate (DCHP)

Even though the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commissionrestricted 8 ortho-phthalatesin products intended for use by children,you still see some of the same chemicals approved as indirect additives by the FDA in the food supply even when those foods are marketed to children. Furthermore, theFDA recently denied a citizen petition in 2022demanding to take these phthalate chemicals out of the food supply because they impact the hormones of children.

California also hassome restrictions under the Prop. 65 list of Carcinogens and Reproductive Toxicants, requiring products sold over the limits to be accompanied by a warning. Any consumer living in California who tests and finds products with specific phthalate amounts outside the limits may bring a Prop. 65 lawsuit six months after serving the company with a public notification letter. However, be advised these limits are not enforceable. California’s “right to know” law is only about warning the consumer about the carcinogenic chemicals present. Therefore, California cannot force companies to recall products that are above these limits. Here are the criteria:

  • BBP – Maximum Allowable Dose Levels (MADL) 1,200 μg/day (oral)
  • DBP – MADL 8.7 μg/day
  • DIDP – MADL 2,200 μg/day
  • DnHP – MADL 2,200 μg/day
  • DEHP – No Significant Risk Level (NSRL) 310 μg/day (adult), MADL 4,200 μg/day (intravenous adult), MADL 600 (intravenous infant), MADL 410 ug/day (oral for adult), MADL 58 ug/day (oral for infant).
  • DINP – NSRL 146 μg/day

In terms of coconut oils, it could be possible the vast majority of phthalates are finding their way into the product during manufacturing, storage, or transportation. Under the Food & Drug Administration 21 CFR rules, it regulates food, drugs, cosmetics, and food contact materials within the United States. The FDA sanctioned the use of 25 plasticizers via an amendment to food additive regulations: 21 CFR Part 175 through 21 CFR Part 178. These regulations allow the use of phthalates in the food supply as “indirect food additives” that can be present. These chemicals can find their way into your food in many ways during manufacturing such as:

  • Adhesives and components of coatings used in food contact materials.
  • Components of paper and paperboard, such as paperboard that is in contact with aqueous and fatty foods or used as a defoaming agent on the paperboard.
  • Adjuvants, production aids, and sanitizers used in manufacturing.
  • Plasticizers in polymeric substances, such as phthalates in plastic PVA or PVC sheets in food contact materials OR vinyl chloride hom*opolymers or copolymers used in food contact materials.
  • Surface lubricants used to make metallic products.

The European Union has banned or restricted several phthalates in a wide range of products since July 2020 such as DEHP, DBP, DIBP, and BBP. These bans and restrictions include children’s swimming aids, flooring, coated fabrics and paper, recreational gear, mattresses, footwear, and office supplies, among other categories. These chemicals are not expected to be found in foods above certain thresholds, however, not all phthalates are restricted or tested for either.

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Other Categories of Products Mamavation Has Tested for Toxic Contaminants

Before we launch into the raw data from our lab, we wanted to remind you about all the other studies we have done on indications of PFAS “forever chemicals,” pesticides, & heavy metals inside the food and consumer products you may bring inside your home. Each one of these studies were done in a similar fashion as this study with brands sent independently to the certified lab and raw data of those labs at the bottom of the post.

  • Soft Contact Lenses
  • Green Beauty Makeup
  • Lip Balm
  • Dental Floss
  • Toilet Paper
  • Period Underwear
  • Tampons
  • Powdered Electrolytes
  • Cinnamon
  • Salt
  • Butter Wrappers
  • Nut Butters(Peanut butter, etc.)
  • Coffee
  • Olive oils
  • Ketchup
  • Activewear(Yoga Pants)
  • Sports Bras
  • Parchment Paper
  • Cupcake Liners
  • Plastic-Free Straws
  • Sandwich Baggies(Both plastic & more “sustainable” options)
  • Fast Food Packaging
  • Children’s Probiotics
  • Kids’ Backpacks
  • Baby Strollers
  • Baby Bottles

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Mamavation’s Investigation of Coconut Oils & Phthalates

For this study, coconut oils were purchased between February 2023 and May 2024. Each product was recorded in our database and sent directly to the lab within its original packaging. Unfortunately, 100% of coconut oils tested had at least trace amounts of ortho-phthalates, a class of hormone-disrupting chemicals.

To make this a more user-friendly list, we have combined our raw data with raw data from the study done in 2023 from by Defend Our Health to give you more options. As you can see, the purpose behind this consumer study is not about completely removing phthalates from your coconut oil, but instead about selecting a food product with lower amounts of phthalates.

Mamavation’s EPA-certified lab tested for the following phthalates. This is not a complete list of all the phthalates that are allowed to be present as an indirect food additive according to the FDA, however, this list goes above and beyond what is already restricted by the European Union or the State of California and mirrors what was tested in 2023 by Defend Our Health.

  • Diethyl phthalate (DEP)
  • Di-n-propyl phthalate (DPP)
  • Diisobutyl phthalate (DIBP)
  • Dibutyl phthalate (DBP)
  • Dihexyl phthalate (DnHP)
  • Benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP)
  • Dicyclohexyl phthalate (DCHP)
  • Diisononyl phthalate (DINP)
  • Di-n-octyl phthalate (DnOP)
  • Diisodecyl phthalate (DIDP)
  • bis(2-Ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP)
  • Dimethyl phthalate (DMP)
  • Bis(2-propylheptyl) Phthalate (DPHP)
  • Didecyl phthalate (DDP)

PeteMyers,Chief Scientist at Environmental Health Sciences, Adjunct Professor of Chemistry at Carnegie Mellon University, and Co-Author ofOur Stolen Future had this to say: “The presence of individual types of phthalates in olive oils is just a starting point. Scientific experts in endocrine disruption are deeply concerned about the simultaneous effect of the mixtures of phthalates present. In our samples, 71% tested had at least two phthalate types present, and 28% had at least three phthalates present. That’s not a good sign.”

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Mamavation’s Raw Data on Phthalates in Coconut Oil

Coconut Oils with The Most Contamination

This category contains coconut oils with more than 800 ppb total phthalates. Coconut oils marked with a * were from testing done in 2023 by Defend Our Health and added here for more variety. Mamavation is basing our study only on products tested by our EPA-certified lab, but also bringing in more options that were tested and released in 2023 for more information for our audience. Please note, USDA organic certification does not prohibit the use of phthalates in manufacturing.

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Coconut Oils with Intermediate Contamination

This category represents coconut oils containing between 400 ppb and 800 ppb total phthalates.

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Coconut Oils with the Least Contamination

This category represents Coconut oils with less than 400 ppb total phthalates. This is our favored list of coconut oils for you to purchase.

Coconut Oils Tested for Toxic Phthalates -- Buying Guide (2024)


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