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Phthalates that might harm found in drugs, supplements

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Over 100 drugs and supplements have been identified that contain phthalates.

Researchers from Boston University's Slone Epidemiology Center (SEC) have identified high numbers of prescription drugs and supplements that contain potentially harmful phthalates.

Phthalates are primarily used as a vinyl softener. According to the CDC human exposure to phthalates is well below that which might cause harm.

However, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), as well as the authors of the current study, more research is needed to assess the potential harm from phthalate exposure, especially in vulnerable populations such as infants and children.

According to the EWG:"

“Phthalates have been found to disrupt the endocrine system. Several phthalate compounds have caused reduced sperm counts, testicular atrophy and structural abnormalities in the reproductive systems of male test animals, and some studies also link phthalates to liver cancer, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control’s 2005 National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals.”

A recent EmaxHealth report highlighted a link between phthalates and thyroid hormone disruption.

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The Endocrine Society recently published a statement urging regulation of endocrine system disrupting compounds that also come from BPA, PCBs, PBBs and dioxins, pesticides (methoxychlor, DDT), fungicides, , and pharmaceutical agents that said are "known to interfere with natural hormones."

Phthalates such as dibutyl phthalate (DBP) and diethyl phthalate (DEP) were found in over 100 drug and dietary supplements.

Included were 50 prescription drugs, 40 over the counter medications, and 26 dietary supplements that contained DEP or DBP. Nine supplements contained DBP. The study is published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

Lead author Kathy Kelley, MPH, RPh, a research pharmacist at BU's SEC said "Given the thousands of orally-ingested products on the market (prescription, OTC and dietary supplements), it is difficult to know exactly how many contain phthalates. However, it is informative and important to identify the specific drug products that have included phthalates in their formulations."

Kelly said it important for people to understand how many prescription drugs, over the counter medications and supplements contain phthalates because not enough is known about their effect on human health, which warrants more research.

The authors recommend that future studies pay close attention to the amount of phthalate, particularly DBP, in medications and supplements to estimate help estimate the cumulative exposure to the potentially harmful plasticizer in humans.

Image credit: Morguefile