New research is adding to the evidence that a commonly used chemical may be linked to health problems. The new study shows children born to parents highly exposed the phthalates are at increased risk of delays in mental and motor development. Phthalates are known to disrupt the endocrine system and are used in a variety of consumer products including plastic toys, shampoos, cosmetics, building materials and cars.
The latest study measured the levels of four kinds of phthalates in the urine of more than 300 pregnant women. The behavioral and mental development of the children born to these mothers were tested at three years of age. The study found that phthalate exposure during pregnancy was associated with an increased risk of motor delay which researchers say could increase problems with fine and gross motor skills later in life. One of the phthalates was linked to decreases in mental development in girls. Three of the phthalates were associated with behavioral problems like anxiety and depression among boys and girls.
The study in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives is the first to examine prenatal phthalate exposure and the prevalence of mental, motor and behavioral problems in preschool age children. Other studies have linked the industrial chemical to reproductive problems, hormonal imbalances and liver and kidney function. The author of the study says the government has banned phthalates in certain children’s product and parents can cut down exposure further by reading labels. Professor Robyn Whyatt says the best thing a parent can do for their child’s development is spend time interacting with them which has more of an effect than any environmental toxin.
Soaps and shampoos are just some of the many products that contain phthalates. Here are some ideas for making a better choice for you and the environment.
A good place to start is to shop for products which have mostly natural ingredients and the fewest preservatives. But remember, the claims on these products aren’t regulated. So you’ll have to check out the ingredient list for yourself. True organic products won’t contain toxic chemicals or chemical preservatives. And, truly natural products usually contain minimal amounts of preservatives. Many preservatives contain parabens which are considered toxic. And, be suspect of the word ‘fragrance’ on the ingredient list. Many companies use that term’ to avoid listing toxic chemicals like phthalates which can alter hormones.
CosmeticDatabase.org is an easy-to-use resource to find out what’s really in the products you use. You can search by brand name or type of product. Remember, everything we use on our bodies will eventually go right back into our environment. Do Your Part to seek out beauty products that are made with the fewest toxic ingredients.
Terri Bennett is a veteran TV meteorologist, syndicated columnist and author, and founder of DoYourPart, everyday green living ideas that are better for you and the planet. Send questions [email protected] and follow DoYourPart on Facebook and Twitter. Terri’s new book “Do Your Part: A practical guide for everyday green living” is now available at DoYourPart.com.