NY Senator Calls for Legislation
Phthalates, chemicals used to soften plastic, and that are linked to birth defects, ADHD and asthma, were found in 75% of children’s school supplies randomly purchased in dollar stores and other NYC retailers, says NY Sen. Charles Schumer. Researchers found that some back-to-school supplies including raincoats, boots and binders and, more specifically, Disney’s Dora the Explorer Backpacks, Amazing Spiderman and Disney Princess lunch boxes contained phthalate levels that are much higher than allowable federal limits. “We don't allow high levels of these toxic chemicals in children's toys and we certainly shouldn't allow them in back-to-school products," says Schumer who vowed to push for the Safe Chemicals Act to give the EPA more authority to regulate chemicals used in consumer products.
Hairspray from Hell?
Women who test positively for high concentrations of certain phthalates -- chemicals found in a broad array of personal care products, such as soaps, shampoos, cosmetics, hairspray and nail polish -- run a higher risk of developing diabetes than those with low concentrations. A study of 2,350 women aged 20 to 80 found that those with the highest concentrations of mono-benzyl phthalate and mono-isobutyl phthalate in their urine were twice as likely to be diabetic as low-phthalate women, and that even those with moderately high levels were 70 percent more likely. Phthalates, which one unrelated study found present in as many as seven out of ten top selling cosmetic items, are also considered to be obesogens, or possible contributors to obesity.
Are Plastics Making Kids Fat?
Preliminary results from a new study suggest that a phthalate used to soften plastics may increase the risk of childhood obesity. The study involved collecting blood from 204 six to 13 year olds, 105 of whom were obese. After accounting for physical activity and caloric intake, a higher body mass index (BMI) was linked to higher levels of di-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) which is found many products people use every day. DEHP likely acts in two ways to increase fat; reducing the potency of the male sex hormone androgen which normally lowers BMI and disrupting normal thyroid function which secretes hormones that affect weight gain. Both hormones affect appetite and how quickly food is broken down. Male fertility, breast development in boys and low birth weights has been tied to phthalates.
Link Seen with Modest Increase
Results from a study involving more than 1,000 seventy year old men and women found that elevated levels of phthalates, found in cosmetics and plastics that people are exposed to everyday, increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Fasting blood samples were screened for glucose and a variety of environmental toxins and a direct link between phthalates and diabetes was observed even when factors such as obesity, physical activity, fats in the blood and smoking were taken into account. The increase in levels did not have to be dramatic to double the risk of developing diabetes. Certain types of phthalates appeared to interfere with the pancreas’ ability to produce insulin. More studies will have to be conducted to confirm this link and to understand the underlying biology behind it.
Almost 100 Percent Affected
Nearly every pregnant woman in the U.S. carries around multiple chemicals inside, some of which have been banned. New research from the University of California, San Francisco has revealed that chemicals are inside the bodies of 99 to 100 percent of pregnant women in the U.S. Bisphenol A (BPA), used inside beverage cans and other food packaging, was found in 96 percent of pregnant women. Researchers have linked prenatal exposure to BPA with adverse health outcomes, such as increased susceptibility to cancer later in life. PBDEs, also found in pregnant women, are compounds used in flame retardants that have been banned in many states. DDT, banned in the U.S. in 1972, was also detected inside pregnant women. The study findings are published in Environmental Health.