'Everywhere Chemical': New Warnings for Moms-To-Be

You've probably heard about phthalates, the chemicals that make plastic soft and flexible. They're practically in everything, but a new study reveals another reason pregnant women should try to avoid them.

What Mali Land really wants is a healthy baby. It seems like that's not easy these days with a minefield of things to avoid.

Ayanna Woltz, MD, from Somerset OB/GYN, told Ivanhoe, "There are a lot of things pregnant women have to look out for."

Woltz cautions her patients to check everything around them,   even the sweet air they breathe, because so many household items like air fresheners contain chemicals known as phthalates.

"When it comes to phthalate exposure studies have shown that women who are of reproductive age are the people with the highest amounts of phthalates in their bloodstream," Woltz told Ivanhoe.

Cosmetics with phthalates as an ingredient are a major cause of exposure for women. And now,  a Columbia University study found that moms with high phthalate exposure were more likely to have children with asthma, with almost an 80% increased risk of developing the condition between ages five and 11.

"There is no way right now to be completely phthalate free, but you can try to minimize your exposure," Woltz told Ivanhoe.

Use glass food containers, make sure your baby's bottle is phthalate or BPA-free. Don't use plastics in the microwave, and buy fragrance-free whenever possible.

Mali Land prefers to let the glow of her pregnancy shine.

Land told Ivanhoe, "No makeup, or just very light. If anything just a lip gloss but nothing heavier than that."

Because in three short months, she wants a healthy baby brother for little Eva.

Animal studies show phthalates exposure affects the liver, kidney and reproductive systems of developing organisms.


BACKGROUND: If you are a parent of a young child or are expecting a baby, then you need to know about the dangers of "everywhere chemicals." Bisphenol-A (commonly known as BPA) and phthalates, which are called "everywhere chemicals" because they are so common, are used in making countless plastic products that we see and use every day. This includes children's items such as baby bottles, sippy cups, pacifiers and teethers. Growing scientific evidence suggests BPA and phthalates may be associated with a variety of health issues, including hormonal and developmental problems. Pronounced "THAL-ates," phthalates make plastic soft and flexible, and are often found in car interiors, shower curtains, deodorant, cosmetics, and medical devices. Phthalates can also be found in children's products such as toys, rattles, teethers, rubber ducks, bath books, baby shampoo, soap and lotion.       
PHTHALATES AND DEVELOPMENT: Phthalates can be released from a product by heat, agitation, and prolonged storage. The release can occur during all the stages of the product lifecycle - from production, through use, to disposal. Very few studies have examined the health effects of phthalates on humans. In lab animals, phthalate exposure has been found to be associated with numerous reproductive health and developmental problems such as:

• Early onset of puberty

• Interfering with the male reproductive tract development

• Interfering with the natural functioning of the hormone system

• Causing reproductive and genital defects

• Lower testosterone levels in adolescent males

• Lower sperm count in adult males     

TREATMENT: Buy phthalate-free cosmetics, personal care products, cleaning products, detergents and air fresheners. Manufacturers aren't required to list phthalates on the label, but any item listed as "fragrance" is often a chemical mixture that can contain phthalates. Avoid buying plastics that may be treated with phthalates, including vinyl toys, shower curtains and gloves. Look out for "PVC," "V" or the"3" recycling code on the item or its packaging.   

* For More Information, Contact:

Ayanna Woltz, MD