According to a new study, synthetic chemicals known as phthalates, which are found in hundreds of consumer products such as food storage containers, shampoo, makeup, perfume, and children’s toys, may cause 91,000 to 107,000 early deaths in individuals aged 55 to 64 in the United States each year.
Phthalates are known to disrupt the body’s endocrine system, which regulates hormone synthesis, and they’ve been connected to developmental, reproductive, brain, immunological, and other issues, according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
Even minor hormonal changes can have “significant developmental and biological effects,” the NIEHS states.
The study, which included 5,000 adults aged 55 to 64 and was undertaken at New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine, discovered that those with higher phthalate concentrations in their urine were more likely to die of cardiovascular diseases. Furthermore, these pollutants are linked to obesity and diabetes, according to a study published in the journal Environmental Pollution.
Higher concentrations, on the other hand, did not appear to enhance the chance of cancer deaths.
“Our findings reveal that increased phthalate exposure is linked to early death, particularly due to heart disease,” said study lead author Leonardo Trasande.
“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.”
However, Trasande emphasised that the study did not indicate a definite relationship between phthalate intake and death since the particular biological mechanisms of that relationship are unknown.
“Our research suggests that the toll of this chemical on society is much greater than we first thought,” Trasande said, adding that it “is undeniably clear that limiting exposure to toxic phthalates can help safeguard Americans’ physical and financial wellbeing.”
Other researchers have associated phthalates with around 10,000 fatalities in adult men every year owing to low testosterone levels.
The analysis estimates that these deaths could cost the US $40 to $47 billion in lost economic productivity per year.
“This study adds to the growing database on the impact of plastics on the human body and bolsters public health and business cases for reducing or eliminating the use of plastics,” said Trasande.
The research has been published in the journal Environmental Pollution.