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Phthalates in personal care products linked to childhood obesity

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Chemicals found in personal care products linked to childhood obesity.

In an effort to find contributors to childhood obesity, apart from inactivity and poor diet, researchers at Mount Sinai Hospital and Mount Sinai School of Medicine have found a link between childhood obesity and exposure to phthalates - chemicals found in personal care products including perfume, lotions, cosmetics, varnishes and medication or dietary supplement coatings.

For this study, published in Environmental Research, the researchers tested phthalate concentrations in the urine of 387 black and Hispanic children in New York City, where more than one in five public school age children are obese.

Childhood obesity is prevalent in 15 percent of American children age 6 to 11. Rates of obesity increased from 7 to more than 40 percent from 1980 to 2008, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The investigators measured waist circumference, BMI and height of the one year after testing the children’s urinary phthalate levels. Ninety seven percent of the children had been exposed to the chemical.

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Children with the highest levels of phthalates in the urine were more likely to be overweight or obese. Girls with the highest exposure had 10 percent higher BMI.

Lead author Susan Teitelbaum, PhD, Associate Professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine said the finding emphasizes the importance of limiting exposure to the chemicals.

The study is the first to link childhood obesity to phthalate exposure. Past studies have suggested the chemicals can lead to neurodevelopment impairment. The researchers plan to continue their studies to see of the chemicals found in personal care products contribute to the escalating problem of childhood obesity.

Environmental Research
Associations between phthalate metabolite urinary concentrations and body size measures in New York City children"
Susan L. Teitelbaum, et al.
January 4, 2012

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