Dangers of Phthalates
Written by Faith Anderson on September 9, 2011
Study Examines Effects of Phthalates in Pregnancy
This research, conducted at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, looked at the effects of phthalates during the prenatal period and how these effects may cause a variety of problems down the road. Researchers measured phthalates in the urine of 319 pregnant women, then followed the development of the children born to these women until age three. According to the results of the study, exposure to phthalates during pregnancy played a significant role in the development of the three-year-olds involved in the study. Among the findings, researchers determined that:
- Higher exposure to two of the four phthalates tested for dramatically increased the likelihood of the child having motor delays, which may result in future problems with fine and gross motor skills.
- Prenatal exposure to three of the phthalates were much more likely to increase behavior problems in toddlers, including emotionally reactive behavior, withdrawn behavior, anxiety or depression, and somatic complaints.
- One of the phthalates was associated with significant decreases in mental development in the three-year-old girls.
After reviewing the results of this study, researchers concluded that “certain prenatal phthalate exposures may decrease child mental and motor development and increase internalizing behaviors.”
Regulations on Toxic Chemicals like Phthalates
Despite the potential for phthalates to cause harm to a child exposed to the chemicals during pregnancy, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have so far insisted that the hazards of phthalates to humans are unproven. Although it is unclear exactly why phthalates may be harmful to children, one theory is that the chemicals interfere with thyroid function, which is known to have a significant effects on all aspects of fetal, infant and child development. Last year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency added phthalates to its list of “chemicals of concern” targeted for possible future regulation. The Environmental Working Group calls for more testing of the effects of phthalates on infants and is currently working to pass a new federal Kid-Safe Chemicals Act. This act would effectively revise the country’s toxic chemical law to assure that chemicals like phthalates are safe for babies, children, and other at-risk groups before they can be approved for use.