Phthalates information, risk
January 20 2016

Phthalates, compounds used to add flexibility to plastics, are ubiquitous in the environment. In particular, the diethyl (DEP), di-n-propyl (DnPP), and di-n-butyl (DBP) phthalates are found to exert detrimental effects in both mammalian and non-mammalian studies, with toxic effects varying according to alkyl chain length.

Phthalates found in everything from shampoo to pesticides may increase the risk of obesity and insulin resistance in men. The higher the level of phthalates a man had in his urine, the bigger his waist size and the lower his sensitivity to the key blood sugar regulating hormone. Given that excess belly fat and insulin resistance also are linked to low testosterone levels, and that phthalates have been shown to interfere with or block testosterone function, the findings provide indirect support to the idea that phthalates are behind the recent decline in sperm counts and testosterone levels seen in many industrialized nations. Seventy-five percent of the US population has measurable levels of phthalates in their bodies. Environmental Health Perspectives, online March 14, 2007.

Exposure to certain chemicals commonly found in plastics and other products is associated with lower levels of testosterone in men, women and children. Testosterone is the main sex hormone in men, but it is also involved in a variety of functions in both men and women, including brain function, bone density, physical growth, strength and heart health. The University of Michigan researchers studied exposure to chemicals called phthalates and testosterone levels in more than 2,200 people who took part in the 2011-12 U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, news release, Aug. 14, 2014.

Phthalates, those common chemicals found in cosmetics, scented candles, and plastics, may increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and early menopause. Previous studies of phthalates have mainly focused on how they affect reproductive health and child development. These chemicals are believed to act as endocrine disrupters in the body, meaning they may have an impact on sex hormones. Diabetes Care, published online April 12, 2012. P. Monica Lind, PhD, associate professor of occupational and environmental Medicine, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden. Johanna Congleton, PhD, senior scientist, Environmental Working Group, Washington D.C. Steve Risotto, senior director, ACC Phthalate Esters Panel, Washington, D.C. Jill Stein, MD, candidate for the Green Party's presidential nomination.

Neurotoxicology. January 31 2014. Developmental neurotoxicity of ortho-phthalate diesters: Review of human and experimental evidence. Ortho-phthalate diesters, or phthalates, are widely used synthetic chemicals found primarily in consumer products and polyvinyl chloride plastics. Experimental evidence suggests that several phthalates possess antiandrogenic properties and may disrupt endocrine pathways resulting in abnormal reproductive outcomes. Low-level exposure to phthalates has been well documented in humans, with higher levels found in children and women of childbearing age. Recent epidemiologic studies postulate that prenatal exposure to measurable urine phthalate concentrations may be associated with altered genital and pubertal development in infants and children. This review addresses the emerging evidence that some phthalates may have an adverse impact on the developing brain. The supporting animal studies and proposed mechanisms underlying the deleterious properties of phthalates in relation to neurodevelopmental outcomes are also discussed. While the observed associations are based on limited studies with a broad range of endpoints, the implications of such outcomes are of concern from a public health standpoint and merit further investigation given the widespread nature of the exposure.