Houston, Texas, USA : Pregnant mothers’ exposure to phthalates – substances often used in personal care products, children’s toys and more – may be linked to delays in language development during early childhood, according to a study published today in JAMA Pediatrics.
A team of scientists from the United States and Sweden conducted the study, one of the first to examine this correlation.
Phthalates are added to plastics to increase flexibility, transparency, durability and longevity. They are often used in a myriad of everyday products – but can seep into the environment and are easily ingested, inhaled or absorbed through the skin.
They have often been identified in urine, blood and breast milk, but have also been found in amniotic fluid, which suggests that they can transfer to the fetus through the placenta, says Emily Barrett, an associate professor at Rutgers School of Public Health and researcher at Rutgers Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute, who was a co-investigator on the U.S. portion of the study.
“Virtually 100 percent of people studied have measurable levels of these chemicals in their bodies,” Barrett said.
The study included 370 children whose mothers had provided urine samples during pregnancy and completed language questionnaires when their children turned two. A vocabulary of 50 words or less was classified as language delay.
Barrett said concentrations of two specific phthalates, which are often found in PVC and floor tiles, were significantly associated with language delays in children at two and a half to three years of age.
“Delays in language development are important because they may be early signals of academic issues and a need for special services later in childhood,” said Barrett. “This adds to the growing body of work suggesting that phthalates may be harmful to the developing fetus and suggests that we may need tighter regulation of these chemicals in the everyday products we use.”
Citation : Association of Prenatal Phthalate Exposure With Language Development in Early Childhood JAMA Pediatrics. DOI: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2018.3115
A second study found that PVC flooring in homes give rise to uptake of phthalates in pregnant women
PVC flooring in homes give rise to uptake of phthalates in pregnant women
A new study in the SELMA project at Karlstad University, Sweden, shows that plastic flooring in the home is a source of phthalate uptake in pregnant women. Phthalates are considered dangerous by EU regulators.
PVC flooring often contains phthalates to make the plastic soft. Such plasticizers are not firmly bonded to the material, but slowly leak to the environment over the life of the material and can therefore be routinely measured in indoor dust and air. The question then arises whether flooring materials made of softened PVC can give rise to uptake of such chemicals in humans. This has now been investigated in the SELMA study at Karlstad University.
The SELMA study follows about 2,000 mother-child pairs from early pregnancy through childbirth and up to school age for the children. The overall purpose of SELMA is to investigate how exposure to suspected endocrine-disrupting chemicals (e.g., phthalates) during pregnancy can affect children’s health and development.
In the current study, the researchers collected information about the home using a survey of the families during early pregnancy. One question was about which flooring materials were found in the bedrooms and kitchen. The pregnant woman’s urine was analyzed for the contents of metabolites from five phthalates. The study included 1,764 women and the analyses were adjusted for important background factors.
Analyses show that pregnant women living in PVC-floored homes had higher levels of metabolites from three phthalates (DBP, BBzP and DEHP) when compared to women living in homes with other floor materials such as wood and linoleum. There were also indications for a dose-response relationship, i.e., the more rooms with PVC floors, the higher the levels of these phthalate metabolites in the urinary pregnant women’s urine.
“We know that the three phthalates—DBP, BBzP and DEHP—are used in PVC flooring materials, but also in many other products,” said Huan Shu, Ph.D., of public health sciences at Stockholm University, and principal author of the study. However, many older phthalates such as DEHP have today been replaced with other plasticizers in PVC.
Christina Rudén, a professor at Stockholm University says that these chemicals are currently on EU limitation lists and considered dangerous, and therefore will be forbidden. Carl-Gustaf Bornehag, professor at Karlstad University and project leader for the SELMA study, believes that these results show several basic problems with hazardous chemicals in goods and products. Although these chemicals are not used as much today, they’re detectable in urine from all pregnant women in the SELMA study, which indicates that they are actually present. Another complicating factor is that flooring materials in a home have a lifespan of about 20 to 30 years, which means that exposure is likely for a very long time.
Citation for second study: Huan Shu et al. PVC Flooring at Home and Uptake of Phthalates in Pregnant Women, Indoor Air. DOI: 10.1111/ina.12508
A third study found that Phthalates in PVC floors is taken up by the body in infants
Phthalates in PVC floors taken up by the body in infants
A new study at Karlstad University in Sweden shows that phthalates from PVC flooring materials is taken up by our bodies. Phthalates are substances suspected to cause asthma and allergies, as well as other chronic diseases in children. The study shows that children can ingest these softening agents with food but also by breathing and through the skin.
Phthalates are a group of chemical compounds that occur in construction materials and a great number of common consumer goods such as toys, cleaning solvents, packaging, etc. Phthalates are suspected of disrupting hormones and may be related to several chronic diseases in children, like asthma and allergies, as shown in earlier studies. Flooring materials using softened PVC contain phthalates and have previously been shown to be a significant source of phthalates in indoor dust. This new study was designed to investigate whether flooring materials using PVC and other housing-related factors, together with other individual factors, can be tied to the uptake of phthalates by infants.
Urine samples were taken from 83 randomly selected children between the ages of two and six months by the county council in Värmland in western Sweden. The prevalence of four types of phthalates in the urine was measured, and data were collected about flooring materials and the home, the family’s lifestyle, and individual factors for the infants. The levels of certain phthalates (MBzP, a BBzP metabolite) proved to be higher in the urine of babies that had PVC materials on their bedroom floor. The levels of another phthalate metabolite related to DEHP were lower in two-month-old children if they were exclusively breastfed, with no supplements.
Earlier studies from the current group have shown that PVC flooring can be tied to the occurrence of phthalates in indoor dust, and that exposure for BBzP in indoor dust could be associated with allergic conditions in children. These new data thus show that the uptake of phthalates in infants can be related to flooring materials using softened PVC in the home. It should be pointed out that both DEHP and BBzP are banned for use in toys for small children owing to health risks.
“With this study as a basis, we can establish that there are other sources that should be taken into consideration in regard to the uptake of banned chemicals and that we do not only ingest them in our food,” says Carl-Gustaf Bornehag, professor of public health at Karlstad University and leader of the study. The findings also show that phthalates can be taken up in different ways, both through food and probably through breathing and through the skin.