Phthalates are a group of chemicals used to soften and increase the flexibility of plastic and vinyl; some are also used in cosmetics and personal care products. Six phthalates are currently banned from use in many products for children due to evidence of reproductive and neurodevelopmental harm. A Time Magazine article, These plastic chemicals may be just as dangerous as what they replace, reported that as research about one particular phthalate, DEHP, showed it to be a probable human carcinogen and associated with other health effects, manufacturers began to replace it with DINP and DIDP, two other phthalates. Two recent studies have shown a connection between adverse effects from these two replacement chemicals. The first study links high blood pressure in children 6-19 years old and the presence of DINP and DIDP in urine. The second study, from the same researchers, found a link between the replacement phthalates in urine and insulin resistance in adolescents 12-19 years old. Neither study was designed to determine if the phthalates caused the conditions.
A small study published this week suggests that another phthalate, DEP, contained in feminine hygiene products for vaginal douching may be absorbed by women using these products. However, as Reuters reports in Douching may expose women to harmful chemicals, the presence of phthalates in these products is secondary to the concern over needless douching. The article quotes lead study author Ami Zota: “Doctors widely discourage douching because it has few known benefits and can increase the risk of bacterial vaginosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, pregnancy complications and potentially cervical cancer.”
In another story from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, home-improvement chain Menards said it planned to stop selling any products containing phthalates at its stores by the end of year. Menards joins Home Depot and Lowes in this announcement, which appears to be in response to requests and action from a coalition of public interest groups.
A finding this week from the large National Longitudinal Mortality Study links occupational exposure to formaldehyde and development of the crippling and fatal disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also called Lou Gehrig’s disease. The NBC News report states that men with a high probability of formaldehyde exposure were three times as likely to have died of ALS as men with no probable exposure. There were not enough women with occupational formaldehyde exposures to calculate their risk.
A study published in Environmental Health Perspectives this week found that consumption of organically produced foods, and especially vegetables and dairy products, during pregnancy was associated with a lower prevalence of hypospadias in their baby boys. Hypospadias is a condition in which the opening of the urethra is on the underside of the penis instead of at the tip. The Mayo Clinic reports that the condition is usually corrected by surgery, and with successful treatment, “most males can eventually have normal adult sexual function.” Although the study about diet included a large number of women giving birth (35,107), the number of infants with hypospadias was small (74), and thus the authors assert that the association between organically produced food and lower rates of hypospadias is preliminary and not conclusive.
Fast Company published an article about a wristband called MyExposome that will absorb chemicals to which your skin is exposed. After a week of wear, the wristband is mailed to a lab for analysis “for more than 1,400 different chemicals, from pesticides to endocrine disrupters, volatile organic compounds, and combustion byproducts.”
This post is part of a regular series that summarizes and highlights recent Your Health items and trends. Readers can follow CHE’s Your Health news feed or subscribe via RSS.
While individual actions to safeguard or improve health are important, we cannot individually address broad issues regarding pollutants, food supply, access to health care, poverty, climate change, infectious diseases and other issues that impact the health of individuals and communities. Join CHE to strengthen the science dialogue on environmental factors impacting human health and to facilitate collaborative, prevention-oriented efforts to address environmental health concerns.
Bringing attention to specific resources and findings does not mean CHE endorses or validates them. We highlight the emerging science and its implications for Your Health, knowing that thinking will continue to evolve as new studies are published.