Toxic effects of the easily avoidable phthalates and parabens
Some environmental toxins like DDT and other chlorinated compounds accumulate in the body because of their fat-soluble nature. Other compounds do not stay long in the body, but still cause toxic effects during the time they are present. For serious health problems to arise, exposure to these rapidly-clearing compounds must occur on a daily basis. Two such classes of compounds are the phthalate plasticizers and parabens, both of which are used in many personal care products, some medications, and even foods and food preservation. The phthalates are commonly found in foods and household dust. Even though they have relatively short half-lives in humans, phthalates have been associated with a number of serious health problems, including infertility, testicular dysgenesis, obesity, asthma, and allergies, as well as leiomyomas and breast cancer. Parabens, which can be dermally absorbed, are present in many cosmetic products, including antiperspirants. Their estrogenicity and tissue presence are a cause for concern regarding breast cancer. Fortunately, these compounds are relatively easy to avoid and such steps can result in dramatic reductions of urinary levels of these compounds.
(Altern Med Rev 2010;15 (3):190-196)
With over 18 billion pounds of phthalates used each year, they represent one of the world's high production chemical families. Phthalates, in numerous consumer items, provide flexibility and resilience to plastic products. Di-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) is the most commonly used plasticizer for polyvinyl chloride (PVC); the production volume of DEHP alone in 1999 was estimated to be two million tons. Phthalates are found in adhesives, automotive plastics, detergents, flooring, raincoats, personal care products (cosmetics, shampoos, fragrances, etc.), plastic bags, garden hoses, building materials, household furnishings, pharmaceuticals, nutritional supplements, children's toys, food packaging, cleaning material, insecticides, and other common compounds. Phthalates are also used to manufacture the 500 million pairs of disposable medical examination and sterile surgical vinyl gloves that are produced every year. Typically, the more flexible the plastic, the higher the amount of phthalates in the product. Because phthalates are not chemically bound to the plastics to which they are added, they can easily be released into the environment. This includes leaching and release into air, dust, and food. Since phthalates are rapidly excreted from the body, their presence in the urine indicates current exposure.
The CDC 4th National Report lists urinary levels (mcg/g creatinine) of several common phthalates (Table 1). (1)
A study of 100 pregnant women in the Netherlands examined urinary levels of a number of phthalate metabolites. (2) Table 2 illustrates some of their findings, presented in the same order as Table 1 from the CDC 4th Report.
Types and Sources of Phthalates
A comparison of the two studies shows that multiple phthalate metabolites are present in two different human populations. Note that the levels of these metabolites vary between U.S. and Rotterdam women. Expectant mothers from the Netherlands have much higher levels of monoisobutyl phthalate (MiBP) and mono-n-butyl phthalate (MnBP). MiBP is the metabolite of di-isobutyl phthalate (DIBP) and MnBP is the metabolite of di-n-butyl phthalate (DNBP), and are most...