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Hairpray Ingredient Linked To Birth Defect In Boys

Posted by Jane Akre
Monday, November 24, 2008 3:50 PM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: Hormones, Phthalates, Environmental Chemicals, FDA and Prescription Drugs, Toxic Substances, Cosmetics, Environmental Health

Hairspray may contain phthalates that are linked to a birth defect in boys in this study.



IMAGE SOURCE: ©iStockphoto/ hairspray in salon/ author: EvansArtsPhotography


Anyone using hairspray while pregnant – beware!

A new study finds that the sons of hairdressers, who have a high exposure to hairspray, were twice as likely to be born with a genital defect.

Researchers from Imperial College London identify the defect as hypospadias, a condition where the urinary opening is on the underside of the penis.  It can be repaired with surgery although the condition can sometimes lead to infertility and dysfunction.

In their study, 471 women were interviewed whose sons had the defect. They were compared to a control group who had children without the disorder.

Women were found to have a two to three-fold increased risk of having a son with hypospadias when they are exposed to hairspray in the first trimester of pregnancy.

The study is published in the journal, Environmental Health Perspectives. 

In the European Union (EU), the range of prevalence is reported to be from 4 to 24 per 10,000 births.

In the U.S., it is much more prevalent. The CDC reports hypospadias affects four out of every 1,000 infants.



In Europe some phthalates, the chemical that makes plastics soft,  have been banned from hairsprays and cosmetics since 2005. The women in the study gave birth before the ban.

Phthalates are still found in many common cosmetic and beauty products in the U.S., according to a report, Not Too Pretty: Phthalates, Beauty Products & the FDA, by the nonprofit organizations Health Care Without Harm, Environmental Working Group, and Coming Clean.

Among 72 common cosmetic and personal care products, three-quarters of them had hormone-disrupting phthalates, none of which were listed on the ingredient labels.

The report is available on the Not Too Pretty website.

California will restrict some phthalates in children’s toys starting in 2009. Congress passed a bill restricting three types of phthalates effective in February 2009.

The good news is that taking the supplement folic acid, lessened the likelihood of giving birth to boys with the birth defect by 36 percent.  

Researchers also believe now that being a vegetarian, which had been linked to hypospadias previously, seems to have no impact on causing the birth defect. #

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