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Hormone Disrupting Chemicals Found in Infants

Posted by Jane Akre
Monday, February 04, 2008 2:12 PM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: Toxic Substances, FDA and Prescription Drugs


Infants appear to be absorbing industrial chemicals through lotions and powder a study finds.


A study published in the medical journal Pediatrics is warning parents not to use baby powder and lotions because they increase exposure to phthalates (pronounced THAL- ates) - a hormone disrupting chemical.

It sounds like an extreme claim, but this study published in the journal Pediatrics, confirms what has previously been suspected, that many industrial chemicals are making their way into our blood stream.

This study from the University of Washington does not conclude what effect they have on us, but rather the source in infants.

The study measured phthalates in the urine of 163 infants, ages two months to 28 months and compared the urine measurement to the mother’s report of the infant behavior in the previous 24 hours.  Mothers were interviewed about the use of powder, lotions, diaper creams, wipes, shampoo.  

And the mothers were interviewed about the child’s use of teething rings and pacifiers. Phthalates are used to soften plastic.

80 percent of the infants had phthalates in their urine.  The infants who had been exposed to lotion and shampoo were tied to higher concentrations, however no link was found to the use of pacifiers, plastic toys or diaper creams.

Phthalates are often found in lubricants, plastics including children’s toys and cosmetics. They can penetrate the skin, get into the air and liquids.

Last year, California banned children’s products that contained a trace amount of phthalates. Many believe the U.S. should follow the European Union’s lead which in 2006  banned the use of six phthalate softeners used in plastic toys used by infants under three and likely to find their way in the mouth.

The petroleum based chemicals may act like hormones in the body fooling it to either overproduce or under produce hormones.

Endocrine disruption is a new field of environmental science and many point to industrial chemicals as causing reproductive disorders and early maturation of girls and the feminization of boys. Industrial chemicals in the environment are blamed for male fish developing eggs and cancers of the reproductive system.

The question remains is there a safe level of exposure for humans? 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January of 2003, tried to answer that question comparing the phthalate exposure of more than 5,000 Americans of various ages and ethnic groups to government-established maximum safe exposures for the chemicals.

It found the U.S. exposure fell short of the established limits. 

Parents and physicians should pay close attention to these results believes Bernard Weiss, professor of environmental medicine and pediatrics at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in Rochester, N.Y. 

He tells ABC News, "Testicular cancer, diminished sperm counts and metabolic abnormalities... are especially worrisome because they constitute what we call 'silent toxicity,'" Weiss said. "They remain dormant for as long as decades, so they are not readily connected to chemical exposures during prenatal life or infancy."

What’s new with this study is that it shows how easily the chemicals can be absorbed through the skin says Dr. Marcel Casavant, chief of pharmacology and toxicology at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. He doesn’t believe this new information should worry parents.

“There is no justification for keeping them on the shelves here,” said Jane Houlihan, Vice President for Research of Environmental Working Group (EWG). 

EWG previously did a survey about phthalates in cosmetics and finds them abundant. The group offers Skin Deep, a safe shoppers guide to baby products and personal care products, which are not regulated by the FDA as are drugs and food additives.

Study author Sathyanarayana believes the jury is still out on safe levels of exposure for humans. She tells ABC News that it might not be just the concentration of these chemicals, but also the fact that we are constantly and consistently exposed to them, that could lead to health effects.

Phthalate-free baby products are now available and lead author Sheela Sathyanarayana at University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle advises parents to buy them to use in newborns.

Not everyone agrees.

John Bailey, chief scientist at the Personal Care Products Council which represents 600 product makers, says only one of the seven phthalates found in the babies’ urine – DEP or diethyl phthalate is used in personal care products for children.  He says DEP has been shown safe and this “is not a public health concern…This is not good advise to be giving to consumers, to mothers.”  #

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