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Chemicals in personal care products linked to type 2 diabetes

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By David Liu,PHD

Sunday July 15, 2012 (foodconsumer.org) -- A study in the July 13, 2012 online edition of Environmental Health Perspectives suggests using personal care products loaded with toxic chemicals known as phthalates increase risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus in women.

The study lead by Tamarra James-Todd, PhD of Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH)  and colleagues shows  increased concentrations of phthalates in the body were associated with an elevated risk of type 2 diabetes in women. 

Phthalates, endocrine disrupting chemicals, are commonly used in personal care products such as moisturizers, nail polishes, soaps, hair sprays, shampoo and perfumes. This ground of chemicals are also used in adhesives, electronics, toys, some pacifiers, plastic food packages, medical equipment, and building materials such as vinyl flooring.

Researchers analyzed urinary concentrations of phthalates in 2,350 women who enrolled in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and found those with higher levels of phthalates in their urine were more likely to suffer type 2 diabetes. 

Specifically, the researchers found 

Women who had the highest levels of mono-benzyl phthalate and mono-isobutyl phthalate were almost twice as likely as those with the lowest levels to be diagnosed with diabetes.

Women with higher than median levels of mono-(3-carboxypropyl) phthalate were about 60 percent more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.

Women with moderately high levels of mono-n-butyl phthalate and di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate were about 70 percent more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes.

"This is an important first step in exploring the connection between phthalates and diabetes," said Dr. James-Todd. "We know that in addition to being present in personal care products, phthalates also exist in certain types of medical devices and medication that is used to treat diabetes and this could also explain the higher level of phthalates in diabetic women. So overall, more research is needed."

Last month, a study presented at The Endocrine Society's 94th Annual Meeting in Houston found children exposed to di-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP), a common type of phthalate, were more likely to develop obesity.

Mi Jung Park, MD, PhD of Inje University College of Medicine in South Korea and colleagues conducted the study of 105 obese and 99 healthy-weight youth ages 6 to 13 years.

Also last month, another study released in  the advance online edition of Environmental Health Perspectives suggests that prenatal exposure to a ubiquitous household chemical butylbenzyl phthalate (BBzP) increase risk for developing eczema in children.

Specifically, researchers found "onset of eczema by age 2 was 52 percent more likely in children whose mothers had been exposed to higher concentrations of BBzP, compared with those whose mothers had been exposed to lower concentrations."

Rachel Miller, MD of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center and colleagues conducted the study of 407 nonsmoking African-American and Dominican women and their children in New York City.

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