Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Phthalates, BPA, Autism & ADHD linked to Fragrances, Cosmetics & Personal Care Products?

I keep bumping into studies that are downright shocking. So shocking I believe it's my duty to report on them. They're the basis for why I'm concerned about product ingredients in the first place.

Last week at Environmental Health News I found an abstract for a study on a group of chemicals called endocrine disrupting compounds (EDC). Here's the headline:  Moms exposed to BPA and phthalates during pregnancy report more autistic-like social behavior in their children. 

I recognized those ingredients, BPA and phthalates right away! They keep popping up on lists of pervasive and potentially dangerous chemicals to avoid. And just so you know, phthalates is pronounced "THalates", and bisphenol A is also known as "BPA". 

Before I talk about the research it's important you know both these chemicals are reported to be just about everywhere. BPA is used in polycarbonate plastics, thermal receipts and food can linings and phthalates are found in food packaging, cosmetics, personal care products and vinyl plastics. Both are instrumental in making plastic flexible.

Ready for a very simplified abstract of the study? Called Mount Sinai Children’s Environmental Health Study, it's based on the theory that pregnant women exposed to EDCs experience interference with hormone production. The researchers also theorized that changes occur in the brain of the unborn children that lead to a distinct group of problematic behaviors similar to those found in autism and ADHD.

The scientists tested their hypotheses by following 137 mothers and children from New York City for nine years. They didn't expose anyone to EDCs, but only measured the concentration of EDCs in the women's urine during their third trimester of pregnancy. When the children borne of these woman were between seven and nine years old the mothers were given a standardized testing scale and asked to report on their child’s social behavior.
The results? Higher concentrations of BPA and/or specific phthalates were clearly associated with atypical social behaviors such as poorer understanding of social cues, poorer social communication and poorer social awareness- all symptoms associated with autism and ADHD. An unexpected finding was the type of phthalates found in fragrances and personal care products were most strongly associated with the atypical social behaviors. 

What this all means to me is that being concerned about chemicals in our everyday products is critical to us all. Just a few weeks ago I read ADHD and autism are both on the rise and no one seems to understand why. Maybe we've got a solid clue right here.
Press here to go to the abstract for the study. And here's a link to the study from the journal, Neurotoxicology. If you don't like either of those, here's information about the study: Phthalates, BPA linked to atypical childhood social behaviors. Apr 06, 2011. Miodovnik, A, SM Engel, C Zhu, X Ye, LV Soorya, MJ Silva, AM Calafat and MS Wolff. 2011. Endocrine disruptors and childhood social impairment. 


  1. Wow, great post, my son probably has ADHD (he hasn't received the designation yet but probably will soon) and I've been researching and trying to do things to help him with out giving him drugs. This is news to me but it makes sense. I will definitely look more into this. Thanks so much.

  2. I'm so glad it was helpful. As you said, it really makes sense. The abstract talked about other research that might come from this information. Maybe it'll provide some answers to help people who've been affected.

    Good for you for doing the research and looking for non-drug alternatives. Your son is very fortunate to have that kind of mom! I've heard the non-drug regimes have been really successful for a lot of kids. Hope you can find something that helps.

    I'm working on another post right now related to this last one and based on an article that came out in Glamour this month. The article's really well done and has a good prevention section. My guess is that none of that will be new to you, but maybe something will be useful.