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Phthalate US exposure levels drop thanks to industry efforts

By Michelle Yeomans+

16-Jan-2014
Last updated on 16-Jan-2014 at 17:31 GMT

Americans are being exposed to significantly lower levels of some phthalates according to a study led by researchers at UC San Francisco.

Phthalates, which are used to soften plastic, can be found in nail polish and fragrances. The drop in exposure will come as good news to the industry as many cosmetic brands have been under pressure to wipe them from their products of late.

Towards the end of last year P&G announced that 70% of its beauty products were now phthalate-free as it made efforts towards a complete ban by 2014.

In fact since 2004, more than 1,000 companies have agreed to remove certain chemicals from personal care products and report more clearly what chemicals they are using.

First paper to track exposure levels over long length of time

The paper, published yesterday in Environmental Health Perspectives, is the first to examine how phthalate exposures have changed over time in a large, representative sample of the U.S. population.

It focuses on trends in a decade's worth of data from 2001 to 2010 in exposure to eight phthalates among 11,000 people who took part in the survey.

An accumulating body of scientific evidence suggests Phthalates can disrupt the endocrine system, which secretes hormones, and may have serious long-term health consequences.

"We were excited to see that exposure to some of the phthalates that are of public health concern actually went down," said Ami Zota, ScD, MS, who did the research when she was a postdoctoral fellow at UCSF's Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment.

 A drop in one phthalate sees a rise in others however...

According to the study's authors whilst this drop in exposure levels is good news, a consequence of these changes is the dramatic changes in exposures to the other two phthalates they measured (DEP and DiBP), neither of which has been subject to federal restrictions.

"Exposure to DEP fell 42% since 2001 and tripled for DiBP," they report.

The researchers reckon the industry may be using DiBP as a replacement, both in personal care products and in solvents, adhesives and medication.

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