A scientific paper to be presented April 8 at a medical conference shows that high levels of a plastic-softening chemical called phthalate in the blood may be linked to inattention and hyperactivity behaviors in children.
The researchers tested blood levels in unexposed children and in children who spent time in a hospital PICU and had one to 12 medical tubes inserted. They found a “clear match between previously hospitalized children’s long-term neurocognitive test results and their individual exposure to the phthalate DEHP during intensive care.” DEHP levels were not detectable in healthy children, but were “sky-high” — up to 18 times higher — in hospitalized children.
What does this mean for your child who may never have been seriously ill?
Perhaps plastic products all around your family could be causing or worsening your child’s problems with focus, distractibility, irritability and high energy levels. (Now, I also would not discount the effect of certain styles of parenting, lack of exercise, over-exposure to technology, developmental trauma, and lack of secure emotional attachment as causes of ADHD. Addressing these in a clinical setting can significantly improve a child’s behaviors.)
Phthalates are added to plastics such as PVC to increase their flexibility, transparency, durability, and longevity. Plasticizers contribute 10-60% of the total weight of plasticized products.
Most Americans tested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have metabolites of multiple phthalates in their urine.
Besides being found in medical catheters and blood transfusion devices, phthalates are found in a huge number of products including in the coatings of pharmaceutical pills and nutritional supplements! Fatty foods such as milk, butter, and meats are a major source. Other sources are:
- shower curtains
- mini blinds
- vinyl upholstery
- food containers (especially coded “3” for recycling)
- plastic food wrap
- cleaning materials
- plastic packaging
- personal-care products such as perfume, eye shadow, shampoo, moisturizer, nail polish, liquid soap, and hair spray
- vinyl floor tiles
- plastic plumbing pipes
- adhesives and glues
- printing inks and coatings
- building caulk
- paint pigments
Prior to 1999 phthalates were even used in baby pacifiers, rattles and teethers.
Even infant lotion, infant powder, and infant shampoo have been associated with increased infant urine concentrations of phthalate metabolites. Phthalates are not stable, so they can be in the air, water, or food. They can be inhaled from dust in homes that contains phthalates and this is linked to higher levels of asthma and allergies in children.
Phthalates have long been associated with changes in hormone levels, birth defects including lower cognitive performance, and cancer.
Women may be at higher risk for potential adverse health effects, including breast cancer, due to increased cosmetic use.
There may also be a link between the obesity epidemic and endocrine disruption and metabolic interference caused by plastic products.
It is becoming increasingly clear that reducing the number of plastics in your home is important for the physical and emotional health of children and adults.
Here are more tips and a helpful chart of plastics to avoid.
The NIH has a comprehensive website for many types of toxins.