[No. 32] Mothers, do not let your boys grow up to be … well, less than they can be. According to a blog post on The New York Times (21 March 2014) – “To study the impact of everyday chemicals on fertility, federal researchers recently spent four years tracking 501 couples as they tried to have children. One of the findings stood out: while both men and women were exposed to known toxic chemicals, men seemed much more likely to suffer fertility problems as a result. The gender gap was particularly wide when it came to phthalates, those ubiquitous compounds used to make plastics more flexible and cosmetic lotions slide on more smoothly. Women who wore cosmetics often had higher levels of phthalates in their bodies, as measured by urinalysis. But only in their male partners were phthalate levels correlated with infertility.”
“Phthalates belong to a group of industrial compounds known as endocrine disruptors because they interfere with the endocrine system, which governs the production and distribution of hormones in the body. The chemicals have been implicated in a range of health problems, including birth defects, cancers and diabetes. But it is their effect on the human reproductive system that has most worried researchers. A growing body of work over the last two decades suggests that phthalates can rewire the male reproductive system, interfering with the operation of androgenic hormones, such as testosterone, that play key roles in male development. That mechanism, some experts believe, explains findings that link phthalate exposure to changes in everything from testicular development to sperm quality.”
“’I wasn’t surprised at all by this finding,’ Andrea Gore, a professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Texas, and editor in chief of the journal Endocrinology, said of the new report. ‘We see the cell studies, the animal studies and now the human epidemiology work, and they are all showing us a similar picture.’ The focus on male fertility dates back to the early 1990s, when researchers in the United States and Europe published a paper suggesting chemical exposures could be linked to a steady decline in semen quality. One of the authors, Niels Skakkebaek, a reproduction researcher at the University of Copenhagen, has since suggested that an increase in malformations in male reproductive systems, which he calls ‘testicular dysgenesis syndrome,’ may be linked to environmental exposure to compounds including endocrine disruptors like phthalates. More recent studies in the United States have also suggested links between phthalate exposure and apparent sperm damage in men. The findings are supported by a host of animal studies, particularly in rats, which have shown that the compounds can interfere with masculinization of young animals and result in odd physical changes to male reproductive tracts.”
[No. 3] Can artificial turf field cause or aggravate asthma in children? In October 2008, SynTurf.org posted an item entitled “ “What’s with the phthalates in turf?” at http://www.synturf.org/warnings.html (Item No. 31), October 2008); it was followed by an inquiry on “What’s in the artificial turf fiber,” at http://www.synturf.org/wrapuparticles.html (Item No. 09). A few days ago, our friends at Environment and Human Health, Inc. ( www.ehhi.com ) called out attention to a new Swedish study that linked vinyl flooring to asthma in children. According to the study – by Huan Shu, Bo A. Jönsson, Malin Larsson, Eewa Nånberg, and Carl-Gustaf Bornehag, “PVC-flooring at home and development of asthma among young children in Sweden, a 10-year follow-up,” in International Journal of Indoor Environment and Health (30 October 2013) http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/ina.12074 Synopsis by John Peterson Myers http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/newscience/pvc-flooring-associated-with-asthma/ - “the association [between vinyl and asthma] could be the result of phthalates, which are chemicals used to soften vinyl. Previous studies have reported links between phthalate exposure and breathing problems, including asthma and wheezing.” However, the scientists acknowledged the limitation “that dust in the bedrooms was not analyzed for phthalates. However, previous research [had] shown that dust in bedrooms with vinyl floors is more likely to have two types of phthalates, DEHP and BBzP. Because these phthalates are not bound chemically to the PVC, they can leach out and be absorbed by dust, which creates a pathway for human exposure.”
The question raised by the study for us is whether there is a risk of exposure by the young athletes to asthma-causing phthalate from artificial turf fields particularly as the fields age and the fiber and plastic-coated infill deteriorates, creating dust particulates.
[No. 2] EPA to address phthalates and other chemicals of concern. As part of Administrator Lisa P. Jackson’s commitment to strengthen and reform chemical management, on December 30, 2009, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced “a series of actions on four chemicals raising serious health or environmental concerns, including phthalates.For the first time, EPA intends to establish a “Chemicals of Concern” list and is beginning a process that may lead to regulations requiring significant risk reduction measures to protect human health and the environment.The agency’s actions represent its determination to use its authority under the existing Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to the fullest extent possible, recognizing EPA’s strong belief that the 1976 law is both outdated and in need of reform.” For the press release on this topic, please go to http://yosemite.epa.gov/opa/admpress.nsf/eeffe922a687433c85257359003f5340/2852c60dc0f65c688525769c0068b219!OpenDocumentor click here.
In October 2008, the Wall Street Journal reported that, “Once omnipresent in plastic toys, phthalates have been used in everything from action figures to vinyl inner tubes. But the industrial chemicals began to fall out of favor after a number of studies linked them to genital development problems in rodents, a finding eventually correlated to human infants.” Beginning in February 2009 three types of phthalates “will be banned from children's toys and child-care products” and “three other types of phthalates will be temporarily prohibited from child-care products and toys that can be placed in a child's mouth.” For more of the WSJ story go to Nicholas Casey and Melanie Trotman, “Toys Containing Banned Plastics Still on Market: Restrictions on Phthalates Don't Take Effect Until '09; Fears of Reproductive Defects,” in Wall Street Journal, October 23, 2008, available at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122472242723860917.html .
[No. 01] Study: Phthalates worsen skin allergies in newborn mice exposed through their mothers.Di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) is added to plastics, usually to make them flexible. Because of its widespread use in polyvinyl plastics, it is found almost everywhere in the environment. The compound is present in some food packaging, many household products, soft plastic toys, auto upholstery and medical tubing/bags. Exposure occurs through food, water, air and medical procedures in which DEHP-containing products are used.DEHP is a common contaminant of household dust, because it is commonly used in vinyl flooring and in the backing of carpets.
In 2008, Environment and Human Health, Inc. (www.ehhi.org) published a report entitled “Plastics that May be Harmful to Children and Reproductive Health.” In it, EHHI discussed the effects of DEHP, including studies that show DEHP's capabilities of causing allergic reactions. The chemical's link to reproductive effects in lab animals -- specifically infertility and male reproductive defects -- has led the European Union, Canada and the state of California to ban DEHP in toys and infant products. The Federal Government, has now banned DEHP in products that are aimed for children under 12- however the law is not retroactive - and thus products that are on the shelves or fields with DEHP may still persist for some time.
In a recent study researchers also have found that “Newborn male mice exposed to a common phthalate plasticizer (DEHP) through their mothers developed more severe allergic skin reactions to allergens than unexposed mice.” “Research with mice reveals that the phthalate DEHP can increase the severity of allergic reactions in young animals when they are exposed neonatally to the contaminant via their mother's milk.” “Rates of allergic skin conditions -- called dermitits -- are increasing in people. Generally, the skin becomes swollen, red and itchy after being exposed to an allergen. These new results may shed light on one of the drivers of this trend.” “This study suggests that environmental chemicals like DEHP may increase the potency of reactions to allergens and thereby play a role in the development and/or enhancement of allergic diseases.”
The study is R. Yanagisawa, H Takano, K. Inoue, E. Koike, K. Sadakane and T. Ichinose, Effects of maternal exposure to di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate during fetal and/or neonatal periods on atopic dermatitis in male offspring and it is published in Environmental Health Perspectives 116:1136-1141 (2008). The synopsis of the study is available at Environmental Health News (published by Environmental Health Sciences) under “Phthalates worsen skin allergies in newborn mice exposed through their mothers,” January 14, 2009, available at http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/newscience/phthalte-exposure-raises-skin-allergies-in-mice/ or click here .