Another source of phthalate exposure for babies

January 8, 2015

Although some phthalates have been banned from children’s toys, infants can be exposed to the plastic softening chemicals when vinyl crib mattress covers emit them into the air in response to heat, new research reveals.

Although some phthalates have been banned from children’s toys, infants can be exposed to the plastic softening chemicals when vinyl crib mattress covers emit them into the air in response to heat, new research reveals.

After 6 kinds of phthalates were banned by law from toys in 2008 because of health concerns, including reproductive issues as well as asthma and allergy risks, manufacturers replaced them with other types of phthalates of unknown toxicity. As a first step in assessing the potential risk from these alternative phthalates, researchers measured how much of the chemicals are released from vinyl crib mattresses at different temperatures in a specially designed chamber and estimated the amount infants might inhale.

They found that temperature increases in the mattress, as from a baby’s body heat, could significantly increase phthalate emissions from the mattress cover, raising the concentration in the infant’s breathing zone to 4 times that of the overall room air. Such concentrations could expose babies to high levels of phthalates because they breathe in much more air than adults in relation to their body weight.

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With respect to health effects, phthalates are often classified as endocrine disruptors or hormonally active agents because of their ability to interfere with the endocrine system in the body. The ubiquitousness of phthalates in items used daily by children is of concern for children’s health because it increases the likelihood of exposure, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.

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