Should We Be Worried About Phthalates?

Short answer -you should always be worried about words that are so difficult to spell.

Two years ago, this blog highlighted recommendations from the AAP regarding food additives (Food Additives and Child Health).

More information of phthalates is available from the Cincinnati Children’s website: Phthalates and Your Health. The backdrop to this article is in relation to a recently published study Pubertal Growth, IGF-1, and Windows of Susceptibility: Puberty and Future Breast Cancer Risk (F Biro et al. Journal of Adolescent Health 2020).

Key points from Cincinnati Children’s website:

  • Phthalates have been used for many years to make plastics softer and more flexible. These plastics are so common that more than 95 percent of all people have detectible levels of phthalates in their urine. They can be found in everything from perfumes and shampoos to food packaging, detergents, vinyl flooring and shower-curtains.
  • These chemicals act like hormones, which in turn can disrupt the function of natural hormones, which can increase diabetes risk and interfere with male genital development.
  • These chemicals also are considered “obesogens,” which means they contribute to the risk of obesity. For these reasons, several types of phthalates have been banned from use in baby toys and teething rings since 2009, but they can still be found in many consumer products.
  • To avoid exposures, some tips include the following:
    • Minimize plastics used for food storage and avoid heating food in plastic. Use glass, ceramic and stainless steel containers when possible.
    • Minimize use of other plastic products with the recycling code numbers 3 and 7. Those coded 1, 2 or 5 are phthalate-free.
  • Increase consumption of fruits and vegetables, foods more frequently that are known to contain “phytoestrogens”.
  • The National Institute of Environmental Sciences offers this document: “Phthalates: the everywhere chemical.”

My take: Environmental research is quite difficult.  Yet, we know that changes in our environmental exposures are directly related to many adverse health outcomes since changes in disease frequencies related to genetics is a much slower process.

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