Prenatal Exposure to Phthalates may increase the Risk of Asthma among Children

Phthalates, found in food packaging and other household items, have been linked to an increased risk of asthma in children

Phthalates, found in food packaging and other household items, have been linked to an increased risk of asthma in children.

New York City children exposed in the womb to moderate levels of two plasticizers had a 72 to 78 percent higher chance of developing asthma, according to a new study published in Environ Health Perspectives.

The study is the first to link childhood asthma, which has been increasing in recent decades, to prenatal exposure to phthalates.

These results suggest that phthalates may be one of the factors associated with that increase,” said Robin Whyatt, a Columbia University environmental health scientist who led the study. She added, however, that more studies are needed to understand how important a risk factor these chemicals may be.

Phthalates, used in the manufacture of vinyl and some cosmetics, have been connected to a number of health effects in lab animal and human studies, including airway inflammation, altered male genitalia, attention and learning problems and premature births.

2014 Study Abstract

Studies suggest that phthalate exposures may adversely affect child respiratory health.

We evaluated associations between asthma diagnosed in children between 5 and 11 years of age and prenatal exposures to butylbenzyl phthalate (BBzP), di-n-butyl phthalate (DnBP), di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), and diethyl phthalate (DEP).

Phthalate metabolites were measured in spot urine collected from 300 pregnant inner-city women. Children were examined by an allergist or pulmonologist based on the first parental report of wheeze, other respiratory symptoms, and/or use of asthma rescue/controller medication in the preceding 12 months on repeat follow-up questionnaires. Standardized diagnostic criteria were used to classify these children as either having or not having current asthma at the time of the physician examination. Children without any report of wheeze or the other asthma-like symptoms were classified as nonasthmatics at the time of the last negative questionnaire. Modified Poisson regression analyses were used to estimate relative risks (RR) controlling for specific gravity and potential confounders.

Of 300 children, 154 (51%) were examined by a physician because of reports of wheeze, other asthma-like symptoms, and/or medication use; 94 were diagnosed with current asthma and 60 without current asthma. The remaining 146 children were classified as nonasthmatic. Compared with levels in nonasthmatics, prenatal metabolites of BBzP and DnBP were associated with a history of asthma-like symptoms (p < 0.05) and with the diagnosis of current asthma: RR = 1.17 (95% CI: 1.01, 1.35) and RR = 1.25 (95% CI: 1.04, 1.51) per natural log-unit increase, respectively. Risk of current asthma was > 70% higher among children with maternal prenatal BBzP and DnBP metabolite concentrations in the third versus the first tertile.

Prenatal exposure to BBzP and DnBP may increase the risk of asthma among inner-city children. However, because this is the first such finding, results require replication.

Sources and More Information:

  • Asthma in Inner-City Children at 5-11 Years of Age and Prenatal Exposure to Phthalates: The Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health Cohort, Environ Health Perspect; DOI:10.1289/ehp.1307670, 17 September 2014. PDF and Supplemental Material.
  • Kids exposed in the womb to plasticizers more likely to have asthma, Environmental Health News, Sept. 17, 2014.
  • Some household plastics could increase risk of childhood asthma, study finds, The Guradian sustainable-business, 17 September 2014.

The Intersection of Neurotoxicology and Endocrine Disruption

BPA and phthalates associations with brain sexual differentiation are reviewed and further questions noted.


image of ncbi logo
BPA and phthalates associations with brain sexual differentiation are reviewed and further questions noted.

Endocrine disruption, the guiding theme of the 27th International Neurotoxicology Conference, merged into the neurotoxicology agenda largely because hormones help steer the process of brain development. Although the disruption motif first attracted public health attention because of reproductive anomalies in both wildlife and humans, the neurobehavioral implications had been planted decades earlier. They stemmed from the principle that sex differences in behavior are primarily the outcomes of differences in how the brain is sexually differentiated during early development by gonadal hormones (the Organizational Hypothesis). We also now understand that environmental chemicals are capable of altering these underlying events and processes. Among those chemicals, the group labeled as endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) offers the clearest evidence of such selectivity, a consequence of their actions on the endogenous sex steroids, androgens and estrogens. Two EDCs in particular offer useful and intriguing examples. One is phthalate esters. The other is bisphenol A (BPA). Both agents are used extensively in plastics manufacture, and are pervasive in the environment. Both are produced in immense quantities. Both are found in almost all humans. Phthalates are considered to function in essence as anti-androgens, while bisphenol A is labeled as an estrogen. Their associations with brain sexual differentiation are reviewed and further questions noted. Both EDCs produce a wider spectrum of health effects, however, than would be extrapolated simply from their properties as anti-androgens and estrogens. Obesity is one example. Further complicating their assessment as health risks are questions about nonmonotonic dose-response functions and about transgenerational effects incurred via epigenetic mechanisms. All these facets of endocrine disruption are pieces of a puzzle that challenge neurotoxicologists for solutions.

Sources and More Information:

PVC Flooring related to Human Uptake of Phthalates in Infants

#Phthalates – used as softeners in PVC flooring material and suspected as #EDCs – are absorbed by the body of the infants and the amount absorbed depends up on the body area of the infants.

Image of an infant on pvc flooring
Phthalates are absorbed by the body of  infants. The amount absorbed depends up on the infants body area

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.

Sources and More Information:

Let’s keep Nature’s Best Food, Free of Toxic Chemicals

Research finds Round Up chemical in breast milk, what’s next?

Roundup chemical found in breast milk
Round Up chemical in breast milk, what’s next?

Glyphosate Testing Full Report: Findings in American Mothers’ Breast Milk, Urine and Water.

  • Herbicides and water quality & wildlife
  • Public health impacts of residential herbicide use

Research finds Round Up chemical in breast milk, what’s next?

All our posts about breast feeding, EDCs, pesticides, phthalates and SaferChemicals.

On Flickr®

Women’s Health – Safe Cosmetics and Safer Chemicals Infographic

Toxic Chemical Exposure Infographic

Woman and Toxic Chemical Exposure Infographic
Women’s Health – Safe Cosmetics and Safer Chemicals Infographic – by @Chae_Organics

Sources: Toxic Chemical Exposure Infographic
Chaé Organics May 28, 2013

More about SafeCosmetics, SaferChemicals, Women’s Health.

On Flickr®

Trois décisions concrètes contre les perturbateurs endocriniens

Prévention des risques, Ministère de l’écologie, du développement durable et de l’énergie

Réuni par Ségolène Royal le 29 avril, le Conseil national de la transition écologique a émis un avis favorable sur la stratégie nationale contre les perturbateurs endocriniens et annonçé trois décisions concrètes:

1. Éliminer le bisphénol A des tickets de caisse

logo du Ministere_DD
Trois décisions concrètes contre les perturbateurs endocriniens du Ministère de l’Écologie, du Développement durable et de l’Énergie.

Sans attendre l’issue de cette démarche que la France va entamer au niveau européen pour demander la substitution du Bisphenol-A (BPA) dans les “tickets thermiques” (qui désignent notamment les tickets de caisse et les reçus de carte bancaire) et qui devrait déboucher à la fin 2015, Ségolène Royal souhaite que les entreprises de distribution et grande distribution ainsi que les banques puissent s’engager de façon volontaire dans la suppression du bisphénol A dans leurs tickets, à l’instar de la démarche menée par certains distributeurs précurseurs.

2. Dans les jouets, cibler les contrôles sur les phtalates et accélérer la substitution du bisphénol A

Pour renforcer la protection de la santé des enfants, proposition est faite de cibler les contrôles sur les phtalates dans les jouets, en particulier les jouets importés.
Concernant le bisphénol A, des analyses seront réalisées dans des jouets mis sur le marché français. Il est prévu que la France propose à l’Union européenne de revoir la directive jouets pour substituer totalement le BPA des jouets
Déjà l’an dernier, 7 000 contrôles documentaires ou prélèvements sur les produits chimiques en général ont été menés, dont 800 prélèvements sur des jouets, notamment des jouets importés.

3. Annonce des cinq substances qui seront expertisées en 2014

Concernant les substances qui seront expertisées dès 2014, Ségolène ROYAL a demandé à l’Agence nationale de sécurité sanitaire de l’alimentation, de l’environnement et du travail (Anses) de travailler sur 5 substances suspectées d’être perturbateurs endocriniens:

  • le methylparabène, présent dans des produits cosmétiques et produits d’hygiène ;
  • l’acide orthoborique, présent dans les jouets, les adhésifs et lubrifiants (plusieurs dizaines de milliers de tonnes par an sont utilisées dans l’Union européenne) ;
  • le BHA, utilisé notamment dans les produits cosmétiques et les médicaments ;
  • le DINCH et le DEHTP, substances utilisées pour fabriquer des plastiques dans des produits de consommation courante (jouets, articles de puériculture, etc.).

Sources et articles de presse

Meet the twelve known Toxic Chemicals that damage our Children’s Brains

Illustration by Jackie Lay for The Atlantic post:
The Toxins That Threaten Our Brains

neurotoxins infographics
Leading scientists recently identified a dozen chemicals as being responsible for widespread neurodevelopmental disabilities, including #autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyslexia, and other cognitive impairments.

Leading scientists recently identified a dozen chemicals as being responsible for widespread neurodevelopmental disabilities, including autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyslexia, and other cognitive impairments.
But the scope of the chemical dangers in our environment is likely even greater.

In 2006, Dr Philippe Grandjean did a systematic review and identified six industrial chemicals as developmental neurotoxicants:

  • arsenic
  • ethanol
  • lead
  • methylmercury
  • polychlorinated biphenyls PCBs
  • and toluene.

Seven years later, the number of chemicals known to be toxic to children’s developing brains has doubled with these six additional ones:

  • chlorpyrifos,
  • dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane DDT/DDE,
  • fluoride,
  • manganese,
  • tetrachloroethylene PERC,
  • and the polybrominated diphenyl ethers PBDEs.

Dr Philippe Grandjean – who wrote the book Only One Chance, how to protect the Brains of the Next Generation – assumes that even more neurotoxicants remain undiscovered and proposes a global prevention strategy.

Sources and Press Articles:
  • The Toxins That Threaten Our Brains, The Atlantic 284466, by James Hamblin, MARCH 18, 2014.
  • Neurobehavioural effects of developmental toxicity, NCBI, PMID: 24556010, 2014 Feb 17.
  • Full text: The Lancet Neurology, Volume 13, Issue 3, Pages 330 – 338, March 2014, doi:10.1016/S1474-4422(13)70278-3
  • More Toxic Chemicals Damaging Children’s Brains, HuffingtonPost, n_4790229, by Lynne Peeples, 02/14/2014
  • Putting the next generation of brains in danger, CNNchemicals-children-brains, by Saundra Young, February 17, 2014

The “Mind the Store” Campaign

Video by SaferChemicals’s channel, 2013

Mind the Store is the campaign from Safer Chemicals Healthy Families that works with retailers on moving the marketplace away from toxic chemicals.
Video by SaferChemicals’s channel, Published on 10 Jul 2013.


More info and Videos

Food Contact Materials and Human Health

Food packaging chemicals may be harmful to human health over long term, will epidemiologists rise to the neotoxic challenge?

Packaged burger and chips in contact with plastic packaging
Chemicals leaching into food from packaging raise safety concerns – image via @guardian

The synthetic chemicals used in the packaging, storage, and processing of foodstuffs might be harmful to human health over the long term, warn environmental scientists. This is because most of these substances are not inert and can leach into the foods we eat, they say. Despite the fact that some of these chemicals are regulated, people who eat packaged or processed foods are likely to be chronically exposed to low levels of these substances throughout their lives. And far too little is known about their long term impact. ”

Recent Studies and Press Releases;

  • The Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health doi:10.1136/jech-2013-202593, Food packaging and migration of food contact materials: will epidemiologists rise to the neotoxic challenge?, 19 Feb 2014
  • Food packaging chemicals may be harmful to human health over long term, ScienceDaily, 19 Feb 2014
  • Chemicals leaching into food from packaging raise safety concerns, The Guardian, 19 Feb 2014