Just weeks after the National Research Council warned the Environmental Protection Agency that its policies were inadequate for protecting Americans from phthalates and other chemicals that mimic hormones at low levels, a number of new studies have implicated phthalates and bisphenol A in a range of health concerns.
Both chemicals are found widely in consumer products: in plastics, fragrances and products of various kinds.
One new study, published in Environmental Health Perspectives, found that bisphenol A lingers in the body longer than previously thought, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which has led the mainstream media in focusing attention on the chemical.
Bisphenol A can leach from plastics into foods and drinks, and it mimics the female hormone estrogen. Canda has moved to ban it, and several U.S. states and companies have moved to stop certain products with bisphenol A from being manufactured or sold. The Food and Drug Administration, which regulates its use, has not restricted its use in commerce, and has been widely condemned for relying on industry-funded studies rather than the much wider body of independent research that calls the chemical's safety into question. The National Toxicology Program has raised concerns about its effects on developing children.
A separate study in Environmental Health Perspectives found that newborn babies are more exposed to bisphenol A than had previously been thought, according to a synopsis by the Environmental Working Group. Blood urine tests showed many infants had 10-times the level of BPA in their blood as did adults, and one child had 350-times the median level found in adult blood. It could be that those young bodies are not mature enough to process the chemical as adults do, so it lingers longer -- and is more likely to have ill effects.
Researchers also found parabens (preservatives used in pharmaceuticals and cosmetics) and phthalates in the infants' blood.
"The unprecedented study's results are particularly troubling because they suggest that tubing and other medical devices widely used in hospitals are introducing BPA directly into infants' bloodstreams -- the most dangerous route of exposure," writes Jovana Ruzicic for the Environmental Working Group. "The study did not identify specific health problems suffered by the infants exposed to high levels of BPA."
Phthalates, meanwhile, have been shown in the first study of its kind, to lower levels of both estrogen and testosterone in men, according to Environmental Health News, which reported on the study.
"Pthalates are used to make vinyl plastics flexible. The chemicals extend the life of perfumes in household and personal care products," Jennifer Adibi writes in Environmental Health News. "People are exposed through food, water and air; at home, at work and outside. One well known source of exposure -- especially concerning for infants and children -- is plastic tubing and bags used in medical devices. Almost everyone living in the US carries pthalates in their bodies."
This isn't the first time phthalates have been linked to male hormonal issues. The primary concern has been how the chemicals affect male fertility and reproductive health.
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