Here’s another good reason to ditch plastic (and chemical-filled cosmetics): Phthalates, which are common plasticizers found in shampoo, nail polish, moisturizers, kids’ toys, and even sex toys, may lead to an increased risk of diabetes, according to one small study out yesterday. But this isn’t the first study to make the connection between the phthalates in cosmetics and household items and diabetes–and it probably won’t be the last.
The study tested the urine output of nearly 3,000 women, and compared their levels of exposure to various phthalates (there are several kinds) with their diabetes status. Here’s what they found:
Women who had the highest levels of the chemicals mono-benzyl phthalate and mono-isobutyl phthalate had almost twice the risk of diabetes compared to women with the lowest levels of those chemicals.
Women with moderately high levels of the chemicals mono-n-butyl phthalate and di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate had approximately a 70 percent increased risk of diabetes.
But, researchers caution, this isn’t a perfect connection–the women’s cosmetics, themselves, weren’t actually tested, and the women were asked to self-report their diabetic status–so if someone hadn’t been diagnosed, or had been told that they were pre-diabetic and thought that counted, or reported that they had diabetes when they did not, there could be some discrepancy in the findings.
Even still, this is a scary link, and one that has been indicated before. In April, another study found a link between phthalate exposure and diabetes, particularly in older individuals–and that’s in addition to what we already know about them. Much like BPA (which the FDA just banned in baby bottles today, after dragging their heels and insisting that the chemical isn’t dangerous), phthalates work as endocrine disrupters, and that, in women, may lead to a higher risk of breast cancer.
Most of the research around phthalates has been surrounding the children’s healthcare issues, like the effects of exposure in utero on behavior and overall health. And while the health of the fetus is clearly important, so too is the health of the mother…and non-pregnant women, and all female-identified individuals.
Phthalates in cosmetics put women at an especially high risk; these chemicals rarely form tight bonds, which makes exposure is as easy as opening a package or even inhaling that “new plastic scent.” Applying the stuff to your head, face, mouth, and hands every single day, then, increases those risks.
This study isn’t perfect–but it is another brick in the wall of evidence against chemicals in everyday products. And while the FDA and other regulating agencies may take their sweet time to protect consumers, we can do it ourselves by looking for and choosing products that don’t contain potentially dangerous toxins in phthalates and BPA.
Image: jayfish via Shutterstock