New studies link phthalate exposure to childhood obesity, eczema

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Photo: CDC

In a pair of troubling scientific announcements this week, researchers presented findings suggesting that exposure to phthalates – the common, unlabeled chemical additives found in a wide range of consumer products, including many made of PVC/vinyl – may be linked to eczema and obesity in children. Previous studies have associated phthalate exposure with endocrine disruption and asthma, early puberty in girls, and learning disabilities.

The findings underscore the need to phase phthalates out of consumer products and construction materials like vinyl flooring, especially in schools, where they pose a particular threat to children and teachers of childbearing age. CHEJ’s annual Back to School Guide to PVC-Free School Supplies outlines ways parents can choose safer alternatives for their children.

The obesity study, presented at the Endocrine Society’s annual meeting in Houston by South Korean pediatric endocrinologist Dr. Mi-Jung Par, found that children with the highest levels of the common phthalate di-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) in their blood were nearly five times as likely to be obese as children with the lowest levels.

The eczema study, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives by researchers from the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health in New York, found that prenatal exposure to the phthalate butylbenzyl phthalate (BBzP) – commonly found in vinyl flooring – can increase a child’s risk of developing eczema, a skin condition characterized by red, itchy swelling of the skin.  This comes at a time when another study found the very same phthalate can be absorbed into children’s bodies.

The evidence is overwhelming that reducing phthalate exposure, especially among children and womenof child-bearing age, is smart public-health policy and follows the precautionary principle. Click here to learn more about CHEJ’s work to phase PVC, in which over 90% of all phthalates are used, out of the NYC school system.


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