An emerging study reveals that women face increased diabetes risks due to phthalates found in common household products. Phthalates are chemicals that make plastic and vinyl more flexible.
The study found that more than twice as many Americans suffer from Type 2 diabetes versus three decades ago, said Boston.com (The Boston Globe). In fact, the study suggests that sedentary lifestyles and overeating are not the only reasons for the spike in the dangerous disorder. Phthalates, ubiquitous chemicals that can be found in plastic packaging, fragrances, and cosmetics, could be a contributing factor to increased diabetes rates, according to the research from Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
This is just one of a number of recent studies revealing a statistical link between high phthalate levels and increased diabetes risks. The study could not determine if a causal effect existed, in part because phthalate levels were measured after participants had received a Type 2 diabetes diagnosis, noted Boston.com. The study was just published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
Phthalates are part of a group of endocrine disruptors that interfere with the body’s hormone system and may also play a role in childhood obesity and might harm children’s mental and behavioral development, and their muscular coordination. Research has also linked phthalates to issues with thyroid function in humans; to disruption in pubertal development in young girls, which can lead to later complications; to negative behaviors in young children; to breast enlargement in boys; to ADHD (at least one study found that increased symptoms were linked to increased phthalate levels); in pregnancy, to the birth of boys who express less typically masculine behaviors; and to an increase in premature births. Phthalates have also been found to exacerbate dermatitis in tests with mammals and some studies link phthalate exposure to effects on the development of the male reproductive system including 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.
Boston.com pointed out that phthalates are a class of chemicals called endocrine disrupters, and bind to cells, altering the production of certain hormones, including insulin and estrogen. About 75 percent of all Americans have detectable urine phthalate levels.
The recent research reviewed data from a government study of 2,350 women—ages 20 to 80—and found that those with the highest urine phthalate levels also had a two-fold likelihood of having diabetes versus those with the lowest levels, said Boston.com. Phthalates are found in medical tubing, IV bags, and some drugs, which could be a factor in diabetics having potentially increased phthalate levels, noted Boston.com.
“What we really need to do now is to start exploring phthalate levels over time,” study author Tamarra James-Todd, an epidemiologist at Brigham and Women’s, told Boston.com, “to determine whether high levels actually lead to a greater risk of becoming obese and developing diabetes down the line.”
Phthalates are highly ubiquitous, in medical products, nail polish, deodorant, cosmetics, and plastic packaging, which is noteworthy, pointed out James-Todd. “A moisturizer can say it’s phthalate-free, but its packaging can still contain the chemical, which can leech into the cream,” James-Todd told Boston.com.”