Phthalates are yet another set of hormone-mimicking chemicals that are used in many household products including: shampoo, makeup, perfumes, air fresheners, bibs, teethers, inflatable toys, vinyl flooring, IV tubing, insect repellant and much more. We recently learned that even medication capsules are encased in a phthalate-based polymer and can deliver high doses of phthalates as well.
Phthalates are shockingly pervasive. According to USA Today phthalates were found in of all 163 babies tested in a 2008 study. Most babies tested positive for exposure to seven different types of phthalates! Babies are at high risk because they develop so quickly. They eat, breath and metabolize more than adults, so even minute exposures can have an extreme effect.
Phthalates have been implicated in decreased mental development in girls. Simple Steps (a resource of NRDC) reviewed a study by researchers at Mount Sinai Children’s Medical Health Center. They found that newborn girls whose mothers have high levels of phthalates contained in plastics show markedly lower levels of attention and alertness than newborn boys of similar mothers.
They have also been linked to the softening of bones in developing young bodies. Environmental Health News (EHN) explains that a study published in the Journal of Cellular Biochemistry in which phthalates were found to provoke DNA damage that can lead to bone cell death in mouse cells.
“This study shows how a low-dose exposure to two types of commonly found phthalates has a profound effect on bone cells. Based on the results, long-term exposure to phthalates could have devastating effects on developing bones in young bodies and accelerate deterioration in aging bones. Estrogen deficiency is responsible for a number of bone diseases such as osteoporosis. For this reason, many are concerned about the effects of phthalate exposure on bone health.”
While the law recently passed by Congress bans phthalates in children’s products, it doesn’t prohibit their use in IV tubing, vinyl flooring and many other household products. Avoiding phthalates in pregnant mothers and babies is most important and we’ll talk about how to do that in an upcoming post.