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Every day phthalate threat

By Lisa Brody
News Editor
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05/27/2016 - To the normal eye, it would seem there would be no connection linking asthma, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, breast cancer, obesity, type II diabetes, low IQ, various neurodevelopmental issues, behavioral issues, autism spectrum disorders, altered reproductive development, anogenital distance, and male fertility issues.

But trained researchers, more and more frequently, see causal links between all of these growing public health concerns. Many scientific researchers connect the dots to phthalates exposure, also known as plasticizers. They have even coined a name, which is now widely recognized among scientific researchers, for some of the health conditions they are most concerned with: the phthalate effect.

Phthalates are a large family of chemicals used to soften and strengthen plastics and increase their flexibility in a wide array of products. They are the chemical that makes a piece of plastic move or bend, rather than crack and break. They can be found in numerous everyday products, which are then released into the environment, from cosmetics and personal care items; infant care products; shower curtains; wallpaper and vinyl mini blinds; plastic wrap; food and food packaging; pharmaceuticals; detergents; adhesives, plastic plumbing pipes, lubricants, medical tubing and fluid bags; solvents; medical devices; inflatable toys; insecticides; building materials; automotive plastics and vinyls; and vinyl flooring.

If that sounds like just about everything, it's true. Phthalates are in many shampoos, body washes, cosmetics, household cleaners. They're in the milk we drink, and in the plastic tubing of a hospital IV. Everything from the plastic wrap we cover our food with, to the plastic containers we place leftovers in contains phthalates. Love that new car smell? It's from phthalates. And because of the ubiquitous use of phthalates, and because they are often not listed on product labels, everyone in the United States has phthalates in their system.

It's scary to believe that so many items everyone uses on a daily basis has potentially toxic chemicals hidden within them unseen, yet leaching into not only the environment but human bodies. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, plasticizers are in products like nail polishes, to reduce cracking by making them less brittle, in hair spray to help avoid stiffness by allowing them to form a flexible film on the hair, and is the chemical in fragrances, from perfumes to cosmetics to automobile products. While the FDA "has not established an association between the use of phthalates in cosmetics and a health risk, the FDA continues to monitor levels of phthalates in cosmetic products," the organization states on its website.

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