Thursday, December 11th, 2014
Don’t be surprised if “phthalates-free” labels become more important than ever. A new study released by the Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health in New York City has linked the harmful chemicals to a decrease in children’s IQ, reports HealthDay News. The study was published yesterday in the science journal PLOS ONE.
The study centered on 328 mothers and children from low-income backgrounds in New York City. Researchers analyzed how the exposure to five types of phthalates during the third trimester of each woman’s pregnancy affected her children’s IQ at 7-years-old. Each woman’s urine was measured for chemicals during pregnancy, and later on, each school-age child was given an IQ test.
Results showed that children whose mothers had the highest exposure to two phthalates (DnBP and DiBP) had IQs that were at least 7 points lower than children whose mothers had lower exposure to the chemicals. The three other phthalates (BBP, DEHP, and DEP) did not seem to have any significant affects on children’s intellect.
Phthalates are chemicals that are commonly added to plastics as stabilizers. “Depending on the specific phthalate, they are used to make plastic flexible, as adhesive and as additives to cosmetics, air fresheners and cleaning products, as several ‘hold’ scents,” says Pam Factor-Litvak, Ph.D., the study’s author and an associate professor of epidemiology at the Columbia University Medical Center in New York City. According to the CPSC, paints and inks can contain phthalates. CBSNews adds that the two specific phthalates, DnBP and DiBP, can also be found in products like “vinyl upholstery, shower curtains, plastic food containers, raincoats, dryer sheets…”
Even though this study is not conclusive that pthalates are the definite cause of low intellectual development, the results add to the ongoing belief that exposure to phthalates can have toxic negative long-term affects. Other research studies have shown that phthalates can disrupt hormones, cause physical defects (cleft palates and skeletal malformations), increase asthma, and lead to insulin resistance, reports CBSNews.
Manufacturers are not obligated to include labels that point out their products contain phthalates, but Congress permanently bans three types of phthalates (BBP, DEHP, DBP) from being used in amounts greater than 0.1 percent in children’s toys and children’s products related to feeding, sleeping, sucking, and teething. Three other phthalates (DINP, DIDP, DnOP) are also banned from children’s products on an interim basis. “While these regulatory actions were taken to protect young children, there have been no regulatory actions to protect the developing fetus in utero, which is often the time of greatest susceptibility,” Dr. Factor-Litvak noted.
Avoiding all phthalates is impossible, but it is possible to reduce your exposure to them. Dr. Factor-Litvak suggests that food never be microwaved in plastic containers and that scented products (such as personal care and cleaning products) never be used. Also, “avoid use of plastics labeled as #3, #6 and #7 as these contain phthalates as well as BPA (bisphenol A), and store food in glass rather than plastic containers as much as possible,” she adds.
Baby products that don’t contain phthalates:
Image: Group of pregnant bellies via Shutterstock
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Thursday, September 4th, 2014
Some common household items could put pregnant women’s unborn children at risk, new research from the the journal Epidemiology shows.
The study found that a woman’s exposure to a group of chemicals called phenols, especially triclosan and parabens, which are found in many soaps and cosmetics, were linked to baby boys’ increased birth weights at birth and also at age 3. Higher birth weights are dangerous as they can indicate future problems, like obesity.
Chemicals in the phenol family are endocrine interrupters, and Science Daily reports that they include:
- Parabens: used as a preservative in cosmetics and healthcare products
- Triclosan: some toothpastes and soaps carry this antibacterial agent and pesticide
- Benzophenone-3: a UV filter found in sun protection products
- Dichlorophenols: used in the manufacture of indoor deodorisers
- Bisphenol A (BPA): used in making polycarbonate-based plastics, like plastic bottles, CD cases, etc.
- Epoxy resins: found in lining of food cans, dental amalgams
And though many of these chemicals may seem unavoidable, there is some good news—BPA in food packaging for infants and young children was banned in 2013 and will be banned for all food packaging starting Jan. 1, 2015.
Photo of liquid soap courtesy of Shutterstock.
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New Research, Parents News Now
Tuesday, June 24th, 2014
Pregnant women who are exposed to chemical pesticides, especially those used to treat large farm fields, may be more likely to have babies who are later diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or other developmental delay. A new study conducted at the University of California Davis reported these findings–the third major study to link pesticide exposure with autism rates–but stopped short of saying that pesticide exposure is definitely a cause of ASD.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest numbers suggest that 1 in 68 American children has an autism spectrum disorder, with its causes remaining one of the most vexing mysteries in modern medicine. The debate over whether vaccines cause autism is ongoing despite copious research disproving any link, and a recent British study found that genetics may play as much of a role as whether a child is autistic as environmental exposure does.
Reuters has more on the new study, which was conducted in California where agricultural pesticide use is carefully reported and mapped:
For the new study, the researchers used those maps to track exposures during pregnancy for the mothers of 970 children.
The children included 486 with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), 168 with a developmental delay and 316 with typical development.
In the new study, about a third of mothers had lived within a mile of fields treated with pesticides, most commonly organophosphates.
Children of mothers exposed to organophosphates were 60 percent more likely to have an ASD than children of non-exposed mothers, the authors report in Environmental Health Perspectives.
Image: Tractor spraying a field, via Shutterstock
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Child Health, Must Read, New Research, Pregnancy
Wednesday, May 14th, 2014
A group of common chemicals called endocrine disruptors are being connected to fertility problems in men, as CNN reports:
Researchers found endocrine disruptors can interfere with human sperm’s ability to move, navigate and/or penetrate an egg. Their study results were published Monday in EMBO reports.
Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that interfere with your endocrine system – the system in your body that regulates hormones. These hormones control everything from your metabolism to your sleep cycle to your reproductive system, so messing with them can cause serious issues.
Scientists have a long list of potential endocrine disruptors, including bisphenol-A (BPA), phthalates, dioxin, mercury and perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs). They can be natural or man-made and are virtually “omnipresent,” the study authors write, in our food and in common household and personal care products.
This isn’t the first time scientists have linked these chemicals with fertility issues in humans. For example, in 2010, a study of Chinese factory workers found exposure to BPA can reduce sperm counts. More recent studies have shown BPA and chemicals called phthalates can hinder a couple’s ability to conceive and carry a healthy baby to full term.
Scientists in Germany and Denmark tested 96 endocrine disrupting chemicals on human sperm – both individually and in various combinations. Around one-third of the chemicals had a negative effect.
The researchers found these endocrine disruptors increased the amount of calcium found in sperm cells – although BPA was found to have no effect. Calcium ions control many of the essential functions of sperm, study author Dr. Timo Strunker explains, including the flagellum – the tail that propels sperm forward. So changing the calcium level in a sperm cell can impact its motility, or swimming ability.
Image: Sperm, via Shutterstock
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BPA, endocrine disruptors, fertility, infertility, male factor infertility, sperm, sperm quality, toxic chemicals | Categories:
Child Health, Must Read, New Research, Pregnancy, Safety
Friday, April 4th, 2014
Significant amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are toxic chemicals often found in household cleansers and paints, have been found in the polyurethane foam and polyester foam padding materials found in many crib mattresses. More on the new study, which was conducted by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin:
The researchers studied samples of polyurethane foam and polyester foam padding from 20 new and old crib mattresses. Graduate student Brandon Boor, in the Cockrell School’s Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering, conducted the study under the supervision of assistant professor Ying Xu and associate professor Atila Novoselac. Boor also worked with senior researcher Helena Järnström from the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. They reported their findings in the February issue of Environmental Science & Technology.
The researchers found:
- New crib mattresses release about four times as many VOCs as old crib mattresses.
- Body heat increases emissions.
- Chemical emissions are strongest in the sleeping infant’s immediate breathing zone.
The researchers concluded that, on average, mattresses emitted VOCs at a rate of 87.1 micrograms per square meter per hour, while older mattresses emitted VOCs at a rate of 22.1 micrograms per square meter per hour. Overall, Boor said crib mattresses release VOCs at rates comparable to other consumer products and indoor materials, including laminate flooring (20 to 35 micrograms per square meter per hour) and wall covering (51 micrograms per square meter per hour).
Boor became motivated to conduct the study after finding out that infants spend 50 to 60 percent of their day sleeping. Infants are considered highly susceptible to the adverse health effects of exposure to indoor air pollutants.
“I wanted to know more about the chemicals they may inhale as they sleep during their early stages of development,” he said. “This research also helps to raise awareness about the various chemicals that may be found in crib mattresses, which are not typically listed by manufacturers.”
The 20 mattress samples are from 10 manufacturers. The researchers chose not to disclose the names of the manufacturers studied so that their results could draw general attention to the product segment without focusing on specific brands.
At present, not much is known about the health effects that occur from the levels of VOCs found in homes, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Researchers advised parents to allow new mattresses to air out in a garage or protected porch for as long a period as possible before placing it in a child’s crib.
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Image: Baby in crib, via Shutterstock
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