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Phthalates May Double Diabetes Risk

Common Household Chemicals May Increase Risk for Type 2 Diabetes

A Cause for Concern?

"There are chemicals in our environment including phthalates that may be able to interact with the body that changes the way we metabolize and regulate fat," says Johanna Congleton, PhD. She is a senior scientist for Environmental Working Group in Washington, D.C.

Many companies are phasing these chemicals out of their products, but others still rely on them to make plastics more flexible and durable. And "they are doing a good job of getting into our bodies and could affect metabolic processes," she says.

Concerned consumers should call on manufacturers and legislators to phase out phthalates and other potentially endocrine-disrupting chemicals such as the controversial plasticizer BPA, Congleton says.

Jill Stein, MD, a candidate for the Green Party's presidential nomination, reviewed the study for WebMD. "This study adds to a very powerful growing body of evidence that implicates these endocrine-disrupting chemicals in very pervasive diseases."

She says there "is real cause for concern." But "we can fix this; it is not as though the damage is done." Stein says these chemicals leave our body quickly if we avoid exposure.

"The burden should not be on consumers."

What can we do? A lot, she says. Choose products that don't contain these chemicals, urge manufacturers to phase these chemicals out, and let your state and local legislators know how you feel.

The movement to ban BPA had a setback, though, in late March when the FDA said it will not ban this chemical.

Critics: Phthalates Are Safe, Study Is Flawed

Members of the American Chemistry Council (ACC), which represents the chemical industry, point to flaws in the research, as well as to phthalates' extensive safety record.

"The authors over-state the conclusions and, most important for the public to know, the study does not show any cause-and-effect relationship between phthalate exposure and diabetes," says Steve Risotto, senior director of the ACC Phthalate Esters Panel, in a written statement. "Phthalates have a long history of safe use and have been extensively reviewed by governments around the world including the CDC, which found that average phthalates exposure levels are actually far below those set by the government to be protective of human health."

What's more, the levels of phthalates seen in the study are based on one blood sample and were analyzed five to eight years following collection. "This single sample is meaningless for characterizing long-term exposure, as phthalates are rapidly metabolized and eliminated from the body within 24 hours," he says.

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