A class of chemicals called phthalates found in household products like vinyl flooring and wallpaper as well as personal products have been linked to childhood obesity and many other health concerns. Now a new study finds that prenatal exposure to a particular phthalate is associated with a significantly higher risk of childhood eczema.
Researchers measured the amount of butyl benzyl phthalate (BBzP) in the urine of 400 women during the third trimester of pregnancy and all but one had evidence of some exposure to BBzP. After the mothers delivered and during a two-year follow up period, researchers found that children of mothers exposed to higher concentrations of the chemical were 52% more likely to develop eczema by age 2.
Eczema is a common and uncomfortable disease of early childhood characterized by dry, itchy, red skin on the face, scalp, hands or feet.
The current medical view is that hereditary factors, allergens and exposure to tobacco smoke contribute to eczema.
However, the researchers don’t know how BBzP might trigger eczema symptoms. They did test the children for common allergies such as dust mites, cockroaches and mice to rule those out as potential trigger. The researchers found no link between BBzP exposure and allergies.
Unfortunately you won’t find the word “phthalates” on a product label, but you can avoid many phthalates by following these tips:
- Read the ingredients. You can identify phthalates in some products by their chemical names, or abbreviations:
- DBP (di-n-butyl phthalate) and DEP (diethyl phthalate) are often found in personal care products, including nail polishes, deodorants, perfumes and cologne, aftershave lotions, shampoos, hair gels and hand lotions.
- DEHP (di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate or Bis (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate) is used in PVC plastics, including some medical devices like intravenous tubing.
- BzBP (benzylbutyl phthalate) is used in some flooring, car products and personal care products.
- DMP (dimethyl phthalate) is used in insect repellent and some plastics
- Watch out for the term "fragrance," which may include phthalates.
- Choose plastics with the recycling code 1, 2 or 5. Recycling codes 3 and 7 are more likely to contain bisphenol A or phthalates.
For women, one of the greatest sources of phthalates and other toxins may be your cosmetics and other beauty products. However, find out why they can be difficult to root out in our exposé: The Real Cost of Beauty: Dangerous Toxins Lurking in Your Cosmetics.
The Daily Green