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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


"Information collected by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over the last 10 years indicates that, despite the fact that phthalates are used in many products, exposure is extremely low -- much lower than the levels considered safe by regulatory agencies," the statement said.

"It is worth noting, however, that the [new study] tells us nothing about the migration rate of any particular [phthalate] from flexible vinyl; nothing about how the [phthalate] might break down in the environment; and nothing about whether minute amounts of the [phthalate] might present any sort of environmental or health issue," the statement added.

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.

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