Phthalates are a group of chemicals used to make plastics more flexible and harder to break. In fact, they are found in almost everything – from food packaging to fragrance to household cleaners to cosmetics and other personal-care products. Its effects on human health are not fully known since previous studies about its harmful effects on human health are from animal studies. But, according to a new study conducted at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, phthalates have been found to heighten the risk of miscarriage and increase the factors for gestational diabetes (GDM).
This means that these hormone-disrupting chemicals can actually harm humans. Results of the two studies conducted regarding phthalates revealed that pregnancy loss is prevalent, with 31% of all conceptions ending up in miscarriage. In the past decades, cases of GDM have also skyrocketed affecting almost 7% of all pregnancies around the world.
By studying urine samples from women who have undergone medically-assisted reproduction, researchers found the correlation between the presence of phthalates in the human body and their effects on pregnancy. At least 11 phthalate metabolite concentrations in the women’s bodies at the time of conception were determined. Those women who were found to have the highest concentrations of the phthalate called di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, or DEHP, were the ones that have the highest likelihood of losing their pregnancy before 20 weeks. With these findings, it suggests a link between DEHP and its effect on women who are undergoing medically assisted reproduction.
DEHP is a phthalate found in almost all material we come in contact with such as furniture, toys, tablecloths, packaging files, and tiles. According to the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), animal studies showed that large doses of DEHP may have adverse effects on children such as birth defects and even death. Yet, the agency noted that no studies have been done to determine the potential of DEHP to cause cancer in humans.
In a separate study conducted which evaluated the links between GDM and certain phthalates called monoethyl phthalate (MEP), results revealed that women with high concentrations of MEP may lead to excessive weight gain and impaired glucose tolerance during their pregnancy. MEP is a common ingredient found in personal care products such as cosmetics and fragrances. Impaired glucose tolerance and excessive weight gain during pregnancy are both factors for the development of GDM and this can lead to Type 2 diabetes.
Urine samples from 350 women at their early, middle, and late stages of pregnancy were taken and data revealed that those with the highest MEP concentration have an increased risk of excessive weight gain during their pregnancy and have the likelihood to develop glucose intolerance.
How To Get Away From Phthalates
It seems that phthalates are everywhere and we cannot escape it. Fortunately, there are some ways you can reduce your exposure to phthalates:
Avoid PVCs And Go Green
Today, almost every furniture and equipment are made with polyvinyl chloride (PVC). PVCs are also a source of phthalates. Look for PVC-free products – wood and cotton are good alternatives.
Go For Fresh Food
Choose food and beverages that are fresh. Through this, you know that what you will be eating has not come into contact with any phthalate-exposed containers. Avoid using plastic containers if you have to store food.
Free Yourself From Fragrances
Phthalates are one of the main components of fragrances. Look for phthalate-free or fragrance-free options. This also applies to cleaning supplies.