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Ban on Chemicals Lowers Human Exposures, Study Finds

But exposure to similar phthalates that aren't banned has risen, researchers say

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On the other side of the issue, Johanna Congleton, a senior scientist at the environmental-advocacy organization Environmental Working Group, said, "While we are pleased that the levels of certain bad actor phthalates have declined in the U.S. population, it is worrisome that the body burdens of other types of phthalates have increased."

"Research tells us that replacement phthalates may have similar health impacts, such as adverse effects on hormone signaling and male reproductive development," Congleton said." Swapping out one problematic chemical for another that may be just as bad is not the answer. Clearly we need better safety testing for chemicals before they come to market, so we can be sure that replacement chemicals are truly greener."

For the study, Zota and her colleagues looked at exposure to phthalates from 2001 to 2010 among 11,000 people who took part in the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

The researchers found that almost everyone had been exposed to some phthalates, including those that had been partially banned.

Among all phthalates, three have been permanently banned in all children's products. Another three were temporarily banned, pending further study, from use in children's toys that might be placed in the mouth.

Zota's team found that exposure to permanently banned phthalates decreased.

However, exposure to the phthalates that were banned until further study is conducted (DnOP, DiDP and DiNP) actually increased. DnOP and DiDP exposure increased 15 percent and 25 percent, respectively, and exposure to DiNP increased nearly 150 percent. DiNP is being used to replace other phthalates, the researchers said.

In addition, the researchers found changes in exposures to the other two phthalates (DEP and DiBP), neither of which has been subject to federal restrictions. Exposure to DEP decreased by 42 percent since 2001, but tripled for DiBP.

Zota said consumers who are worried about exposure to phthalates should look for phthalate-free products, which are becoming more widely available.

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