Diabetes symptoms affect a growing percent of the US population. The primary cause of Type-2 Diabetes is poor diet, lack of exercise, and being overweight, however a new study has found another risk factor that affects almost everyone.
Phthalates—present in almost all personal care products—have been found to be correlated with Diabetes. Women with the highest amount of phthalates in their urine were twice as likely to develop Diabetes symptoms as women with the lowest concentrations.
Found in shampoos, nail polish, lotions, soaps, and shaving creams, it’s not just women who are likely to be affected. Phthalates are one of the more common chemicals, also used in plastics that small children are likely to be exposed to as well as food storage containers where they can leak into your lunch (never put hot food in a plastic container). Found around the home, phthalates are used (and put off into the air) by many household cleaning agents as well as plastics like linoleum.
As all these plastics—found everywhere, in the home, at work, even extensively in hospitals (many medications even use them to form the capsule)—break down over time, releasing phthalates into the air.
Most at risk are children and infants, who are routinely found to have far more than the FDA or EPA think is a safe level in their blood and urine. Ongoing investigations are looking at not just the safety of phthalates, but of their effects in susceptible populations, such as NICU babies.
Other risks that may be linked to phthalates include obesity (another way they may affect developing Diabetes symptoms) and breast cancer.
Previous studies have found other risks with hormone and endocrine disrupting chemicals (another example of which is BPA). In girls (who are easier to observe than boys) studied in Puerto Rico, early puberty was strongly correlated with the amount of personal care products used, with some showing at least one symptom (breast development, body hair, body odor, even menstruation) as young as age 3. Similar reports (though no studies) have come from mothers in Southern California.
It’s easy, if a little bit more expensive, to start reducing the amount of phthalates and similar chemicals in your body. Start in the kitchen—eliminate as much plastic as you can, starting with things that come into contact with hot food (tupperware, pasta strainers, spoons). Then work over your bathroom. There’s an increasing amount of BPA, phthalate free product lines, many of which are certified natural (you don’t necessarily need to go organic).
Although the study controlled for socioeconomic and other differences between the women, more research is still needed.
Do you make an effort to avoid phthalates and other hot topic chemicals? What about avoiding plastics in general?