Phthalates are chemical compounds present in commonly used materials like cleaning solvents, toys, etc. They are also used as softeners in poly vinyl chloride (PVC) flooring material. Earlier studies have found that phthalates can result in several chronic diseases in children like asthma and allergies. They are suspected to be endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). A 2012 study conducted by scientists from Karlstad University in Sweden and published in the journal Indoor Air has found that phthalates can be absorbed by the bodies of infants and produce asthma in them.
For their research, the scientists led by Carl-Gustaf Bornehag, professor of public health at Karlstad University, randomly selected 83 children from Varmland, Western Sweden. All the children were between the ages of two and six months. Urine samples, collected from the children, were analyzed for the presence of metabolites of di-ethyl phthalate (DEP), di-butyl phthalate (DBP), butyl benzyl phthalate (BBzP) and di-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP). The family members of the children were also asked to fill up a questionnaire elated to their lifestyles and to their indoor environmental factors including the flooring material used in their homes.
The researchers found that the levels of metabolites of BBzP were significantly higher in those infants whose bedroom had PVC flooring. It was also seen that the levels of this metabolite in the urine corresponded to the surface area of the infants. It was noted that the levels of the metabolites of DHEP were higher in two months old infants who were not solely on breast milk compared to those who were completely breast fed.
The study clearly shows that phthalates are absorbed by the body of the infants and the amount absorbed depends up on the body area of the infants. These chemicals also reach the infant formula through indoor dust and can be absorbed through the food.