Prenatal Phthalate Exposure Can Impact Child Behavior

Increased prenatal <"">phthalate exposure may be linked to negative behaviors in young children. Science Daily, citing an emerging study conducted jointly by Mount Sinai researchers and scientists from Cornell University and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), revealed that such exposure could be associated with “disruptive and problem behaviors” in children aged four through nine.

The first-of-its-kind study looked at prenatal phthalate exposure on child neurobehavioral development and is scheduled for publication this month on the Environmental Health Perspectives Website, said Science Daily.

“There is increasing evidence that phthalate exposure is harmful to children at all stages of development,” said Stephanie Engel, PhD, lead study author and Associate Professor of Preventive Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, quoted Science Daily. “We found a striking pattern of associations between low molecular weight phthalates—which are commonly found in personal care products—and disruptive childhood behaviors, such as aggressiveness and other conduct issues, and problems with attention. These same behavioral problems are commonly found in children diagnosed with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Oppositional Defiant Disorder, or Conduct Disorder,” Engel added.

The chemicals that make plastics and vinyls more flexible—phthalates—have long been linked to health events. Science Daily explained that phthalates are part of a group of endocrine disruptor disorders. These chemicals interfere with the body’s endocrine, or hormone system. Stringent phthalate levels were imposed in the United States earlier this year as part of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA). Regardless, even with revised laws banning certain chemicals in toys, a public interest group recently announced that it found some toys being sold at popular retailers violate current mandates.

We also recently wrote that phthalate exposure has been linked to breast enlargement in boys. Another report found a link between phthalate concentrations in urine to ADHD, reported Science Daily previously. 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.

High phthalate levels during pregnancy were also 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 to 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.

Science Daily noted that the chemicals can be found in many consumer products, citing such common products as “nail polishes … cosmetics, perfumes, lotions, and shampoos.” The compounds are used to carry fragrance; increase product flexibility and durability; or to coat medications or supplements to enable time-release delivery, said Science Daily.

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