Q. I take vitamin supplements. Can you tell me about the safety of the plastic capsules I ingest on a daily basis?

A. Many people are shocked by the idea that their pills may be coated in plastic. The plastic ingredients found in many capsules are called phthalates (pronounced THAL-ates). They help make a variety of plastics more durable and flexible

The concern is that some of these compounds act like estrogens and can throw hormones out of balance (endocrine disruption). Research published in Environmental Health Perspectives (March, 2012) turned up 50 prescription drug products that include a potentially toxic phthalate. They also found 26 dietary supplements with these compounds, including some forms of fish oil, garlic, magnesium, vitamin C, probiotics and enzymes.

As the scientists state, “The potential effects of human exposure to these phthalates through medications are unknown and warrant further investigation.” Here is a link to this list.

The FDA does not require companies to disclose whether they use phthalates in their coatings because this is often considered a trade secret.

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  1. Carlee P.
    Reply

    I take some supplements and am interested in your answers to some of the questions brought up by readers.

  2. mgj
    Reply

    This is about plastic coated pills, but what about the plastic capsules that some pain relievers use? Also, my Acidophilus comes in a powder that is in plastic capsules. How can I find out how safe these capsules are?

  3. SEB
    Reply

    Thank you so much for the article in the Dallas Morning News this morning and for this list link on your website. I am highly sensitive to petroleum products and had started wondering about the capsules holding my supplements. The list doesn’t include my supplements but by showing the Phthalate initials I can probably research more myself.

  4. SR
    Reply

    The vast majority take supplements before having to take prescription drugs. The question was about plastics in supplements. It would have been very helpful to have a list of supplements, as lengthy as it may have been.

  5. AG
    Reply

    I remember years ago in Europe (France, Switzerland) that the capsules were either made of gelatin, or of “Oblaten” similar to communion wafers but without the sugar (the type handed out in churches). Still today when I need to take a large pill I use “Back Oblaten”, Küchle is the brand name. It is found on line or in German grocery stores. For 100 pieces less than $10.
    All one needs to do is lay the wafer on the hand, moisten it under water, wait until softened, put the pill or powder on it and swiftly fold it like a small package; easy to swallow, it glides down the throat…. The ingredients are simple: wheat flour and starch. No after taste.

  6. JAB
    Reply

    Thanks for posting this alert. I didn’t find any of my supplements–I take quite a few including digestive enzymes–and this concerns me. Do these “ingredients” show up on the label anywhere? Are they disguised under other names?
    Thanks again, PP, glad your are looking out for us.

  7. cpmt
    Reply

    OMG, I NEVER THOUGHT OF THIS CAPSULES COULD CONTAIN TOXIC PLASTICS AND NO ONE SAID ANYTHING BEFORE!!!
    Thank you. Can we find another types of capsules that are organic or… more natural (not synthetic? )

  8. wong yew choong
    Reply

    What is the difference between phthalate and soft gel capsules?

  9. DS
    Reply

    Timely, just finished reading Mother Jones article on plastic safety.

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