Phthalates may be included in perfume, vinyl floors, furniture, nail polish, personal care items, medical equipment, car interiors, adhesives, paint and many things made of PVC. They’ve been in use around 50 years to make plastics softer and more flexible. Until recently, the chemical group was also used in children’s toys.
It seems that perhaps phthalates should be replaced altogether. A new study links them with higher rates of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms in school-aged children. For the study, Korean scientists measured urine phthalate concentrations and evaluated symptoms of ADHD via teacher reports, as well as computerized tests measuring attention. The scientists found that the higher the concentration of phthalate metabolites in urine, the worse the ADHD symptoms and/or test scores.
The new study, published in the November 15 issue of Biological Psychiatry, doesn’t prove that phthalates cause ADHD, but it does establish a strong link. While the study was performed with Korean participants, the results are believed to be consistent with what would be found in US children.
It’s probably impossible to totally avoid this chemical family that’s currently in such widespread use, but you can still use your purchasing power to make statements about what products you believe in. Phthalates may be identified by the following acronyms: DEHP, BzBP, DEP, DBP and DMP.
Try to research before you buy, and read labels (though may companies don’t list phthalates). Explore what’s inside beauty products at Skin Deep by the Environmental Working Group. They also feature a section on baby products.
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