Some of the thousands of synthetic toxins (as in, we aren't evolutionarily designed to deal with them) that we are bombarded with on a daily basis belong to a "family" known as the phthalates. These are often referred to as "plasticisers", and some have been found to maintain colour and scent in various mediums, leading to their presence in a range of products from nail polish to blood collection bags. Sounds great? Actually, no; phthalates have been associated with problems such as endometriosis (did you know that it is Endometriosis Awareness Month?), allergies and insulin resistance. This has led to the European Union banning certain phthalates in childcare articles and toys, but how do we detoxify from phthalates that we have already been exposed to, or unavoidable items that they're not yet banned from?
Current evidence suggests that phthalates are rapidly cleared, with a half-life of less than 5 hours and minimal accumulation. However, multiple studies have shown exposure in up to 98% of participants, possibly indicating near-constant exposure; whether there are cumulative effects is unclear and it is still entirely possible that phthalates can accumulate. In this study, of the seven unmetabolised "parent" compounds, only 2 were detected at all in sweat and blood samples. While DBP, which was one of the compounds, was found in 16 of 19 blood samples and 4 of 18 sweat samples, only one participant had tested positive for DBP in both. Out of the 11 people who tested for DEHP (the other "parent" compound), none of them tested positive in their blood samples. This may mean that phthalates can be hidden away in tissue, but able to be excreted in sweat. As for their three metabolites, all were found in urine and sweat samples, with MEHP being over four times more easily excreted in sweat, MiBP being 40% more easily excreted in sweat, and MEP being easier to excrete in urine. Five other phthalate metabolites were found in urine samples only.
DEHP and MEHP have been linked with liver toxicity, testicular atrophy, hormone disruption and cardiotoxicity, leading to the bans on DEHP in toys in some countries. As these seem to be more easily excreted by sweat, the results of this study indicate that yes, sweating could be an effective way to free yourself of DEHP/MEHP burden, whether you're in a sauna, steam room or simply outside doing exercise or physical work. You don't need to buy a fancy infra-red sauna, you can just go for a run, which can cost nothing.