A plastic chemical you can’t escape is linked to cancer in children
Phthalates, common in plastics, have been linked to infertility and other mass public health issues
PUBLISHED MARCH 20, 2022 2:00PM (EDT)
he word “phthalate” is ludicrously difficult to spell for something that is absolutely ubiquitous. Because phthalates make plastic products more consistent and durable, the chemical can be found everywhere: in plumbing pipes and medical tubing, in soap and cosmetic products, in wood finishing and countless adhesives. Since the start of the century, at least 95 percent of the American population is confirmed to have phthalates coursing through their bodies.
Now, a recent study of unprecedented scope has revealed that phthalates are linked to childhood cancers.
Lead by scientists at the University of Vermont Cancer Center and published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, researchers compiled data on nearly 1.3 million live births in Denmark between 1997 and 2017. Within that group, there were 2,027 cases of childhood cancer. They also assessed phthalate exposure by seeing whether mothers had filled prescriptions for medications formulated with phthalates either during their pregnancies (to measure gestational exposure) and for their children up until they were 19 years old (to measure childhood exposure).
The researchers found that “childhood phthalate exposure was strongly associated with incidence of osteosarcoma” and identified correlations with other cancers like lymphoma “driven by associations with Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, but not Burkitt lymphoma.” They also found that “associations were apparent only for exposure to low-molecular phthalates, which have purportedly greater biological activity.”
Although the scientists did demonstrate a correlation between the presence of phthalates and cancer, that in itself does not prove a causal link.