Exposure to phthalates — compounds used in making plastics — at levels commonly found indoors, appears to be associated with allergic symptoms in children, according to Swedish investigators.
“Although multiple factors likely are responsible for the increases in allergies and asthma that have been documented in developed countries over the past 30 years,” the authors note in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, “it is striking that these increases have occurred during a period when plasticized products have become ubiquitous in the homes, schools, and workplaces of the developed world.” The team’s findings come from study of 400 children in Sweden. About half had persistent allergic symptoms and half did not. The researchers evaluated each child as well as their home environment, which included a measurement of phthalate levels in dust. House dust samples from allergic subjects had higher levels of butyl benzyl phthalate (BBzP) than those from non-allergic participants, lead author Dr. Carl-Gustaf Bornehag, from Karlstad University in Sweden, and colleagues report. “Phthalates are all around us in a host of plastic products,” Dr. Jim Burkhart, a science editor with journal, said in a statement. “This study suggests that they may be having a direct influence on the health of a great number of children.” (Source: Reuters, Environmental Health Perspectives, October 2004.)