Those simple plastic toys our children are playing with every day might be posing a danger to their health and wellness. Chemicals found in toys may also inhabit your floors, kitchen storage, shower curtains and laundry detergents. Some are actually so dangerous they have been banned from use in consumer products and others are banned from their use just in children’s products.
In spite of the danger, one of the world’s largest chemical companies is fighting to continue the use of phthalates. This is a chemical with known endocrine disrupting effects, and children whose neurological and endocrine systems are still developing, are particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of phthalates.
Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil has spent years prioritizing corporate interests over those of consumers and the environment. In a recent report it is demonstrated that the petroleum company understood the link between fossil fuel use and warming climate as early as 1977. The company has tried to refute the idea, protecting their interest in the oil industry. Over 25% of their $16 billion net profit in 2015 resulted from the sales of other petroleum-based products that include plastics, batteries, synthetic fibers, household detergents and tires. One of the chemicals is the family of phthalates and is used to make plastic pliables.
These health risks from exposure to phthalates are significant and Congress limited or banned the use of several of these phthalates in 2008 and investigated if more should be removed from children’s products. Eight phthalates were recommended to be banned from children’s toys in a final report in 2014, but the CPSA has yet to finalize their ban. ExxonMobil continues to insist the product produces no harm and is working hard to reverse the committee decision.
Phthalates are plasticizers and added to plastics to make them more pliable. Most have a half-life of 24 to 48 hours but recent studies have detected a toxic load of phthalates in urine, blood and breast milk. A higher level is evident in those who eat from fast food restaurants as the food is packaged in plastic and/or non-stick wrappers. Small children are exposed through teething toys, plastic toys, breathing household dust and through the use of medical devices. Constant exposure to products made with phthalates guarantees the chemicals remain in the body and stored in the fat cells. When released, they contribute to the level of phthalates found in the urine.
These phthalates are known endocrine disruptors, otherwise known as chemicals that interfere with the function of your body’s endocrine system. Some changes in wildlife that have been traced to endocrine-disrupting chemicals include Baltic seal population reduction, eggshell thinning in birds of prey, alligator population decrease in a polluted lake, frog population decrease, male sex organs on female marine animals such as whelks and snails and negative effects on fish reproduction and development.
They are also linked to male reproductive problems. A study evaluated immature eggs from 50 couples undergoing in vitro fertilization. There were 761 oocytes, or immature eggs, and only 184 developed well enough to be transferred to the prospective mother. There was an inverse association between men who had high levels of phthalates in their urine and the development of high-quality blastocysts.
Scientists have also linked phthalate exposure to attention deficit disorder, breast cancer, obesity, type 2 diabetes, lowered IQ, autism spectrum disorder, neurodevelopmental issues, behavioral issues, reduced male fertility, asthma, altered thyroid function, imbalanced growth hormone, liver cancer, miscarriage and suspected carcinogen. Priority should be to reduce our exposure to phthalates to our families. Avoiding plastic food containers, plastic toys, reading labels, buying goods in glass containers, don’t microwave plastic containers or wraps, using natural cleaning products, avoiding fabric softeners and checking your tap water for contaminants are just a few of the precautions we should all be using. It’s up to us to keep our family healthy.
Dr Fredda Branyon