Phthalate Exposure Linked To Breast Enlargement In Boys

The chemicals that make plastics and vinyls more flexible—<"">phthalates—and which have long been linked to a variety of adverse health issues, have now been linked to breast enlargement in boys. Meanwhile, stringent phthalate levels were imposed in the United States earlier this year as part of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA).

Reuters, citing an emerging study out of Turkey, reports that increased blood levels of DEHP, a plasticizer, was found in a group of boys who unusual breast enlargement. The enlargement, called pubertal gynecomsatia, is seen in about 65 percent of boys and generally goes away after puberty, Reuters explained.

Dr. Elif N. Ozmert from Hacettepe University in Ankara, Turkey said to Reuters Health, in an email that, “Unfortunately, we are exposed to this (chemical) in many ways via direct contact,” quoted Reuters. “A few examples are personal care products, paints, building materials, household furnishing, clothing, dentures, children’s toys, cleaning materials, insecticides, food, certain medical devices, and pharmaceuticals,” Dr. Ozmert added. Ozmert and his team also wrote that the controversial toxin is known to accumulate in the body, causing negative effects, said Reuters, which added that the report is now posted online in the journal Pediatrics.

The team tested DEHP and MEHP (a DEHP byproduct) levels in a group of 40 boys, ages 11 to 15, who were diagnosed with gynecomastia, as well as a group of 21 healthy boys in the same age levels with no history of gynecomastia, said Reuters. DEHP was found in all of the boys’ blood samples and MEHP was detected in all boys diagnosed with gynecomastia and 19 of 20 boys in the control group; DEHP levels in the blood were significantly higher in the boys diagnosed with gynecomastia versus the control group, reported Reuters. Also, the team found that boys who tested with the highest MEHP levels had the greatest risk of breast enlargement—almost 25 times greater, said Reuters.

According to Dr. Ozmert and his team, phthalates “could be” connected to pubertal gynecomastia and phthalate exposure should be limited. “Although we can’t achieve zero exposure, we can decrease it,” said Dr. Ozmert, quoted Reuters. Ozmert said exposure can be limited by not using “plastic cups and food coverings, particularly for hot foods,” reported Reuters. Cups and baby bottles should never be used in the microwave, noted Dr. Ozmert, and plastic toy and unnecessary cosmetic use should be minimized.

Recently, another report found a link between phthalate concentrations in urine to attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), reported Science Daily. That study found a noteworthy link between phthalate metabolite levels in urine to ADHD test results and symptoms, with increased symptoms connected to increased levels, said Science Daily.

High phthalate levels during pregnancy were linked to the birth of boys who express less typically masculine behaviors; another study of pregnant women found some phthalates may contribute to this country’s increase in premature births. Phthalates have been found to exacerbate dermatitis in tests with mammals. Some studies linked phthalate exposure in lab animals produced effects on the development of the male reproductive system: Infertility, undescended testes, and testicular development; penis and other reproductive tract malformations, such as hypospadias; and reduced testosterone levels. Some phthalates have been associated with liver cancer and problems with the developing fetus and are known to interfere with androgens.

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