A new study published in the journal Environmental Pollution reveals that exposure to phthalates is associated with increased mortality, especially from cardiovascular causes, generating social costs of at least $ 39 billion per year. Researchers are calling for urgent regulatory action to regulate its use.
Phthalates are chemicals found in hundreds of consumer products; they are used in particular to make plastic softer and more flexible, and to increase the resistance of materials to impact and cold. Food packaging, floor coverings, cosmetics, paints, clothing, toys, etc., phthalates are everywhere. They are found for example in polyvinyl chloride (PVC) objects, infusion bags used in hospitals, perfumes, shampoos, nail polishes (in this case they are used as fixing agents, which prevent the varnish from cracking).
Problem: some phthalates are known endocrine disruptors; several have also been classified as substances suspected of being toxic to human reproduction by the European Chemicals Agency. Various regulations have been adopted around the world to limit or even prohibit the use of phthalates in certain types of products. For several years, a European directive has prohibited the use of certain phthalates in childcare articles or toys for children under three years of age. Because even low doses of endocrine disruptors can have serious consequences.
Compounds associated with cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
Among the most common phthalates: bis (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), dibutyl phthalate (DBP), diisononyl phthalate (DINP), diisodecyl phthalate (DIDP) and benzyl benzyl phthalate (BBP). They are usually added to products to make them stronger, longer lasting, or to keep the scent longer in the case of cosmetics.
These compounds do not form a chemical bond with the plastic products that contain them, so they can easily escape. Therefore, they pose a threat when inhaled or ingested, which is why young children are at particularly high risk of exposure as they tend to put their hands in their mouths.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies DEHP as a possible cause of cancer. DINP has been associated with cancer in rats and mice; it is also on the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment’s list of chemicals known to cause cancer. Previous studies have also shown that exposure to phthalates is linked to childhood obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
The research work of Leonardo Trasande, a child environmental health specialist at NYU Langone Health, aimed to assess the associations between phthalate exposure and mortality, as well as to estimate the loss of economic productivity inherent in this early mortality. This study involved a cohort of 5,303 adults, ages 20 and older, who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (conducted between 2001 and 2010) and who provided urine samples to measure phthalate metabolites.
More than 90,000 deaths from phthalates each year
The results show a higher mortality associated with high molecular weight phthalate metabolites, especially those of DEHP. Trasande et al state that cardiovascular mortality increased significantly in the case of a major metabolite of DEHP, mono- (2-ethyl-5-oxohexyl) phthalate.
Finally, extrapolating to the population of Americans aged 55 to 64, the team identified 90,761 to 107,283 deaths attributable to phthalates each year, which translates to more than $ 40 billion in lost economic productivity per year. “This study adds to the growing database of the impact of plastics on the human body,” Trasande told CNN.
The American Chemistry Council, which represents the US chemical, plastics and chlorine industries, called the study “obviously inaccurate” in that it grouped all phthalates into one group, without distinguishing differences in toxicity. ; High molecular weight phthalates like DINP and DIDP are believed to be less toxic than other phthalates. A response “predictable and similar to those used by the tobacco industry when studies have provided evidence of harm,” according to Trasande. The council did not provide any evidence to question the study’s conclusions.
However, the researchers specify that further studies are necessary to corroborate the observations and identify the physiological mechanisms involved, while underscoring the urgency of regulatory action.
How to limit your exposure to phthalates? Trasande advises using products (lotions, detergents and other cleaning products) preferably without perfume, to store food in glass, ceramic or stainless steel (and not plastic) containers, to avoid plastics, suitable for microwaves and dishwashers (these necessarily contain phthalates to withstand temperatures) and, in general, avoid all plastics numbered 3 (PVC), 6 (polystyrene) and 7 (polycarbonate), epoxy resins, Teflon, melamine, etc.). Finally, the specialist recommends consuming fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables instead of canned and processed.
Environmental contamination, L. Trasande et al.
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