Phthalates – Plastic “Everyday” Chemicals Killing People? 

By  Dr. Mike Hansen

Phthalates Linked to 100,000 Premature US Deaths: Everything You Need to Know About These Toxic Household Chemicals.
A new study found that common household chemicals, known as phthalates, contribute to more than 100,000 deaths a year in adults aged 55 to 64. These premature deaths have known reasons, especially heart disease.

This peer-reviewed study published in the journal ‘Environmental Pollution’ also estimates an approximate $40 – 47 billion lost annually in economic productivity due to these deaths.

What are these phthalate chemicals, aka plasticizers?
Why are they toxic?
How can you minimize your exposure to them?


Here’s everything you need to know about phthalates (also known as plasticizers).
What are the types of phthalates, and where are they found?
In the United States, phthalates are found everywhere. Take a walk in a store, and chances are, you’ll see tons of products with these toxins in them. These include certain children’s toys, clothing, food storage containers, shampoos, lotions, soaps, hair spray, and much more. These chemicals are so common that they are known as ‘everywhere chemicals.’ Globally, we consume more than three million tons of phthalates a year!

Some phthalates have been banned or restricted in children’s toys but are pretty common in food packaging, makeup, and other household items.

There are two high-level categories of phthalates. They are Low-molecular-weight phthalates and high-molecular-weight phthalates:

• Low-molecular-weight phthalates are often found in shampoos, lotions, and personal care products. They act as binding agents and help preserve the fragrance in these products.

• High-molecular weight phthalates are ingredients in manufacturing plastics for flooring, food wrap, and other applications. They help to soften the plastic.

Why are phthalates dangerous?
Why are phthalates dangerous? The new study is the first to link phthalates directly to death. The researchers used a nationally representative sample of 5300 adults aged 20 years or older. The lead author, Leonardo Trasande, MD, MPP, said, “Until now, we have understood that the chemicals connect to heart disease, and heart disease, in turn, is a leading cause of death, but we had not yet tied the chemicals themselves to death.”

Phthalates interfere with hormones in our bodies. The chemicals have been known to lower testosterone levels. Low testosterone means many things, but one of those things is an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. People with a higher concentration of phthalates in their urine had a greater probability of dying from heart disease.

Daily exposure to these chemicals causes a buildup of toxins and can induce oxidative stress. This oxidative stress can lead to various issues like cell and tissue damage, premature aging, and chronic conditions like obesity both in children and adults. Not just obesity, but diabetes, but breast cancer and thyroid cancer. Lab studies have also linked phthalates to endometriosis and even possibly infertility. It’s important to note that this study did NOT find a higher risk of dying from cancer due to a greater concentration of phthalates.

For this study, the researchers analyzed data collected from the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey of 2001-2010. This survey was administered by the National Center for Health Statistics at the CDC. During this survey, participants had provided urine samples to measure phthalate metabolite concentrations.

How do we accumulate phthalates in our bodies?
Phthalates can get into our bodies through our skin when we inhale them or when we eat them. food is the primary source of phthalate exposure. It can also happen when children crawl around and put their hands in their mouths after touching things with phthalate particles.

How long do phthalates stay in our bodies?
Once phthalates enter our bodies, they’re processed in two phases and then excreted through our urine and feces. Previously, researchers believed that phthalates cleared rapidly from our body through urine, and the chemicals did not accumulate in our bodies. Further research has shown that this is not entirely true.

Doctor Mike Hansen, MD
Internal Medicine | Pulmonary Disease | Critical Care Medicine

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