Daily exposure to synthetic chemicals called phthalates may have contributed to premature deaths of 100,000 people between ages 55 and 64 in the US, a study has revealed.
Often termed as “everywhere chemicals,” this group of toxins can be found in children’s toys, clothing, furniture, and food storage containers, the study published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Pollution said on October 12.
They are also used in consumer products like PVC plumbing, garden hoses, rain- and stain-resistant products, vinyl flooring, and medical tubing.
Apart from this, phthalates are used in personal care items like shampoo, cosmetics, soap, and hair spray to make fragrances last longer.
How these toxins affect human body
Known as "hormone disruptors," phthalates interfere with the body’s mechanism and affect the endocrine system. The toxins are linked to immune, developmental, brain, reproductive, and other problems, as per the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
The study by New York University's Grossman School of Medicine surveyed 5,000 adults aged between 55 and 64 years. The research revealed that individuals who had higher amounts of phthalates in their urine were more likely to die of heart disease.
"Our findings reveal that increased phthalate exposure is linked to early death, particularly due to heart disease," AFP quoted lead author of the study Leonardo Trasande as saying.
Till now, the chemicals had not been tied to death although they were known to cause heart diseases.
However, higher concentrations of phthalates did not increase the risk of death by cancer, the study said.
"Our research suggests that the toll of this chemical on society is much greater than we first thought," Trasande said.
Reacting to the study, Eileen Conneely, Senior Director at the American Chemistry Council, told CNN, "Much of the content within Trasande et al's latest study is demonstrably inaccurate."
According to Conneely, the study put all phthalates into a single group and failed to identify high-molecular-weight phthalates like DINP and DIDP which the industry believes have lower toxicity than other phthalates. The American Chemistry Council represents the chemical, plastics and chlorine industries in the US.
What can be done
It is possible to reduce the exposure to phthalates by avoiding plastics. “Never put plastic containers in the microwave or dishwasher, where the heat can break down the linings so they might be absorbed more readily," CNN quoted Trasande as saying.
Apart from this, individuals can use unscented lotions and laundry detergents, use glass, wood, ceramic and stainless steel to store foods, refrain from buying canned and processed food, frequently wash hands and avoiding air fresheners.
(Edited by : Shoma Bhattacharjee)
First Published: IST