Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals are a growing problem in the 21st Century world. The various chemicals involved in the processes of plastics manufacture can have dangerous effects on living creatures. These chemicals can even have genetic impacts that can cause problems for future generations.
Some of the most common EDCs present in our environment today are called phthalates. Phthalates are some of the most well-researched Endocrine Disruptors because they were among the first discovered to impact Hormone Balance.
What Do Phthalates Do?
Phthalates are a plastic additive that is used to promote elasticity and flexibility. These chemicals are very common in construction materials but can also be found in food storage containers, kid's toys, pet products, and medical tubes. Phthalates are also often a component of hygiene products and cosmetics, along with medical coatings and numerous other products.
These chemicals are common in fragrance products because they help scents stay present in the air longer. They are also frequently found in products like nail polish because they help prevent cracking. Sadly, there is no unified list of products containing phthalates because there is no legislation that requires it.
The Dangers of Phthalates
Medical professionals, scientists, and advocates came together to highlight the potential dangers of Phthalates in a recently published edition of the American Journal of Public Health. This article outlines the threat of Phthalates as neurotoxins that can lead to behavioral and cognitive problems in children. Strong evidence suggests that these chemicals can lead to attention and learning issues that can affect kids for their entire lives.
This isn't the first time that researchers have sounded the alarm bells against Phthalates. Researchers long ago revealed that Phthalate exposure could impair the development of the male reproductive tract. Current animal and human studies also provide a growing body of evidence that Phthalates represent a danger to the proper development of the brain.
One of the reasons that Phthalates are so disruptive to human development is because they suppress the production of Testosterone. In males, this can cause problems in fetal development as well as after birth. This can lead to easily diagnosed issues such as malformation of the genitals, but it also has more subtle neurological implications on the brain.
It's critical that we learn more about how Phthalates and similar Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals affect development because these fetal/childhood issues are irreversible. By identifying the risks, it's easier to advocate for stronger regulations against these potentially-dangerous toxins.
Avoiding Phthalate Overexposure
Chronic Phthalate exposure is the most dangerous. Phthalates are believed to have a half-life of around five hours in the body. While Phthalates are widespread in scented products, it's possible to find perfumes, candles, soaps, and other products which are certified Phthalate-Free. Plastics containing Phthalates often have a recycling code of 3, which is something to look out for.
Try to use glass for storage over plastic if you can, and don't put plastics containing EDCs in the microwave or the dishwasher because high heat increases the likelihood that Phthalates and other Endocrine Disruptors leach from the plastic. This is especially critical for those taking care of very young children. Babies tend to have a higher risk of Phthalate exposure than adults because they naturally find ways to put everything in their mouths.
With tighter regulation, health issues associated with Phthalate exposure will inevitably decline as humans of all ages are exposed to fewer of these toxic chemicals. For now, we just have to do what we can to protect ourselves.
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