A causal link between the worldwide epidemic of childhood obesity and phthalates commonly used in soft plastics, packaging and many personal care products is becoming more evident. A Korean study from Sanggye Paik Hospital at the Inje University College of Medicine, in Seoul, shows that the risk of childhood obesity increases with the level of DEHP (di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate) in the bloodstream.
The study indicates that phthalates may change gene expression associated with fat metabolism. DEHP in particular is a suspected endocrine disruptor, or hormone-altering agent. Children with the highest DEHP levels were nearly five times more likely of being obese than children with the lowest levels. The scientists studied 204 children ages 6 to 13, of whom 105 were obese.
A chemical commonly used to soften plastics, DEHP is found in some children’s toys, as well as myriad household items. Phthalates can be found in pacifiers, plastic food packaging, medical equipment and building materials like vinyl flooring. Personal care products such as soap, shampoo and nail polish may also contain phthalates.