Are Phthalates The New Hazard To Your Health?

Recent studies have shown that phthalates may be a new hazard to our health. These ingredients, commonly found in many household chemicals and plastics, may double the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Researchers have found an alarming association between phthalates and diabetes, but their adversaries are quick to point out that this does not necessarily mean that exposure to phthalates causes diabetes.

The connection was found when patients undergoing a fasting blood sugar test were measured for phthalate levels in their blood. The study showed that individuals with higher phthalate metabolite levels were twice as likely to develop diabetes as those with lower levels. Even those with very low levels of phthalates showed an increase in the risk of diabetes and further studies are now being urged to discover more about the possible cause and effect.

What are Phthalates?
Phthalates (pronounced thal-ates) are common chemicals used in the manufacture of cosmetics, PVC, plastics, vinyl flooring, detergents, plastic bags and even scented candles. They are frequently used as softening agents in plastics to make them more durable and flexible, hence their other name “plasticizers”. They are also used to make fragrances last longer. 

Several studies alarmingly show that phthalates may affect child development and reproductive health. Young children are at greater risk of taking in phthalate particles due to their hand-to-mouth habits, taking in dust particles.

Phthalates have been found to have an effect on the hormone system by acting as endocrine disrupters and they may play a part in promoting other pervasive diseases. Another theory is that phthalates may interact with the body during the metabolism of fat.

Diabetes is Linked to Phthalates
The latest study on phthalates looked at the health risk specifically to patients over the age of 65. They found that diabetes was more common in those who had high levels of phthalates in the blood. However, it also showed that diabetes was more likely in those who were overweight and had high levels of cholesterol. While researchers are convinced that there is a connection between phthalates and diabetes, the FDA has yet to ban the chemical.

Members of the American Chemistry Council (ACC) point to possible flaws in the study. Senior Director, Steve Risotto says, "Phthalates have a long history of safe use and have been extensively reviewed by governments around the world including the CDC, which found that average phthalates exposure levels are actually far below those set by the government to be protective of human health." However, most people may prefer to be safe than sorry.

How to Detox and Avoid Phthalates
Dangerous as these phthalate products may be, the study shows that the chemicals quickly metabolize and are eliminated from the body if exposure is avoided. The best way to do this is by choosing products that are natural and do not contain these chemicals.

Avoid fresh foods that have been processed or packaged excessively as these can all introduce phthalates into your food. Choose shampoos, household cleaners and personal-care items that are free of synthetic fragrance. If you do want a fragrance, opt for products that are scented with natural essential oils.

Sources:

http://www.cdc.gov/biomonitoring/Phthalates_FactSheet.html

http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=157066

http://www.eatingwell.com/food_news_origins/organic_natural/7_simple_ways_to_detox_your_diet_and_your_home?page=6

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