Phthalates, as you know, have been ordered removed from children’s goods, which includes food contact materials. But they’re still found in common items, such as shower curtains, personal body care products, and various medical products, among many other things. Phthalates soften plastic and bind “fragrance” to the products that contain it. [Hint: look for PVC and fragrance, and you'll find phthalates.]
So what’s the big deal? They’re endocrine disruptors, which means they interfere with the normal functions of hormones. Phthalates have been linked to early onset of puberty in girls, obesity, lower sperm count and testosterone level, under-virilized boys, and male genital deformities such as hypospadias (in which the urinary opening is located somewhere besides the head of the penis, like the underside). Whee!
And now they’ve been linked to preterm birth. Makes you wonder if we should kick the chemical out of all products, doesn’t it?
A study out of Mexico City focused on 60 women: 30 who delivered preterm babies, and 30 who gave birth at full term. The babies considered “preterm” were born before 37 weeks’ gestation.
To perform the study, researchers collected urine samples during the third trimester and looked at 11 different phthalates.
Those with an above-average level of phthalates had a 2- to 4-fold increased risk of delivering preterm. That’s compared to those who had an average or below average level of phthalates in their urine.
The women in this study had the same range of phtalates in their systems as American women.
Because the study is relatively small and new, researchers say that it must be followed up with further study.
Want to minimize exposure?
- Click here to read about PVC-free shower curtains.
- The Center for Health, Environment, and Justice has a list of PVC-free school supplies.
- Because make-up, lotions, and other personal care products contain phthalates, you’ll want to find some of the safe ones. Look at the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.
- Also, avoid products with “fragrance”, including personal care products and laundry detergents. Essential oils are safer.