Plasticizers and Your Baby

Baby Care Products: Possible Sources of Infant Phthalate Exposure


Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics Vol. 121, No. 2, February 2008, pp. e260-e268

by Sheela Sathyanarayana, MD, MPH; Catherine J. Karr, MD, PhD;

Paula Lozano, MD, MPH; Elizabeth Brown, PhD; Antonia M. Calafat, PhD;

Fan Liu, MS; and Shanna H. Swan, PhD





1. “Phthalates are man-made chemicals found in personal care and other products.”

2. Phthalates can alter human male reproductive development.

3. Phthalate exposure is widespread in infants.

4. Infant exposure to lotions, powders, and shampoos is significantly associated with increased urinary concentrations of phthalates, and associations increased with the number of products used.

5. Young infants are more vulnerable to developmental and reproductive toxicity of phthalates because of their immature metabolic system capability and because of increased exposure dosage per unit body surface area.

6. Phthalates are synthetic, man-made chemicals that have toxic effects to the developing endocrine and reproductive systems.

7. Phthalates are used in the manufacturing of a wide variety of industrial and common household products.

8. Phthalate chemicals are found in plastic products such as children’s toys, lubricants, infant care products, chemical stabilizers in cosmetics, personal care products, and polyvinyl chloride tubing.

9. “Phthalates are not chemically bound to these products and are, therefore, continuously released into the air or, through leaching, into liquids, leading to exposure through ingestion, dermal transfer, and inhalation.”

10. “Children are uniquely vulnerable to phthalate exposures given their hand-to-mouth behaviors, floor play, and developing nervous and reproductive systems.”

11. Phthalates are associated with sperm DNA damage in male adults and have widespread effects on endocrine and reproductive systems.

12. Phthalate exposure through breast milk is associated with abnormal reproductive hormone levels in three-month-old infants, “suggesting that early human exposures may have an adverse impact on endocrine homeostasis.”

13. “Phthalates have also been found in food products and are thought to be contaminants that enter the food supply during processing and packaging.”

14. Mothers’ use of baby lotion was associated with an 80 percent increase in phthalate concentrations.

15. Infant powder use was associated with a 60 percent increase in infant urine phthalate concentration.

16. Infant shampoo use was associated with a 40 percent increase in infant urine phthalate concentration.

17. Mothers’ use of infant lotion, infant powder, and shampoo was significantly associated with higher phthalate metabolite urinary concentrations.

18. This study shows that dermal exposure is an important route of exposure for some phthalates, particularly for young infants.

19. Phthalate exposures come from multiple sources, including plastics, personal care products, and household products, and multiple exposure routes may be involved.

20. Oral ingestion of phthalates occurs through food, medicines, and indirect dust ingestion.

21. Infants are exposed to phthalates through oral ingestion of breast milk/formula, and dermal exposure to specific infant care products.

22. “In the United States, there is no requirement that products be labeled as to their phthalate content. Parents may not be able to make informed choices until manufacturers are required to list phthalate contents of products.”

23. These authors “recommend limiting amount of infant care products used and not applying lotions or powders unless indicated for a medical reason.”

24. “Phthalate toxicity is of increasing importance in the scientific and public community.”

Dr. Dan Murphy graduated magna cum laude from Western States Chiropractic College in 1978. He received Diplomat status in Chiropractic Orthopedics in 1986. Since 1982, Dr. Murphy has served part-time as undergraduate faculty at Life Chiropractic College West, currently teaching classes to seniors in the management of spinal disorders. He has taught more than 2000 postgraduate continuing education seminars. Dr. Murphy is a contributing author to both editions of the book Motor Vehicle Collision Injuries and to the book Pediatric Chiropractic.

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