Phthalates Present Even In Healthy Foods

<"">Phthalates, chemicals that enable flexibility in plastics and vinyls, for instance pacifiers and rubber ducks, and which are known in laboratory testing to cause reproductive disturbances such as decreased sperm count, infertility, and reproductive tract malformations, are turning up in all sorts of foods.

Ubiquitous in a wide array of consumer products and industry, phthalates are also found in cosmetics, personal care products, pharmaceuticals and medical devices, food packaging, and cleaning and building materials, noted the National Academy of Sciences in a report it recently published on the issue. Now, a study out of ETH Zurich has stated that even when adopting a healthy eating lifestyle, the chemical is difficult to avoid, reported Science Daily. The compound is also found in, said Science Daily, flooring, cables, packaging materials, medical products, and cosmetics and, because of the toxin’s ubiquity, can be introduced quite easily into the food chain and the human body.

Phthalates have been associated with male genitalia deformities, diabetes, excess weight, and premature births said Science Daily. No small problem given that synthetics are virtually everywhere. Phthalates—phthalate ester and alcohol—is an organic compound mixed with synthetic rubber for about five million tons annually, said Science Daily.

Michael Siegrist, a professor at the Institute of Environmental Decisions at ETH Zurich, said, “often you don’t know where in the food chain the phthalates get into the food—whether they come from the bucket used to harvest olives, the conveyor belt, or elsewhere in the production chain,” quoted Science Daily. Siegrist led a study at the Institute collaborating with the Institute of Chemistry and Bioengineering at ETH, which concluded that eating healthy does not necessarily stop the ingestion of phthalates, said Science Daily. Worse, healthy eaters might be taking in more eaters with no concern about their diet, Science Daily pointed out.

The team polled some 1200 people in Switzerland and found participants were divided among four groups: Healthy, vitamin-taking, eaters; healthy, natural eaters; passive eaters with no regard to food intake; and high fat, high sugar eaters who also eat a lot of fast foods, said Science Daily. Oddly, the research found the healthy, natural eaters took in the most phthalates, while the passive eaters ingested the least, said Science Daily, which noted that the “nutritionally aware” groups fared worse than the passive and fast food eaters. The reasons for the unexpected outcomes remain unclear; however, note that European Food Safety Agency levels for phthalate tolerance levels were not close to being reached, reported Science Daily.

This summer we wrote that a then-emerging study of pregnant women found some phthalates may contribute to this country’s ongoing increase in premature births. We also reported earlier this year that phthalates were found to exacerbate dermatitis in lab tests with mammals.

Science Daily previously noted a scientific committee concluded that exposure to various phthalates in lab animals produced outcomes including effects on the development of the male reproductive system such as infertility, undescended testes and testicular development; penis and other reproductive tract malformations, such as hypospadias; and reduced testosterone levels. Some phthalates, reported prior, have been associated with liver cancer and problems with the developing fetus and are known to interfere with androgens.

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