Indoor Air Quality and Phthalates

Indoor air quality and phthalates haven’t been tightly connected, but there is evidence and research that points to a problem. Phthalates are found in so many products we use every day, it’s hard to discern where problems may arise for human health. If there is a problem with phthalates, what is the source? The jury is still out.

Air quality is an issue that you hear quite a bit about from many different sources. Most of the time, however, this term is associated with the air quality outside of your home and most people don’t put much thought into the indoor air quality in their homes and businesses. This lack of thought may be the hidden cause for many different health symptoms, including tiredness, nasal congestion, headaches, and increasing allergies and chemical sensitivities. The connection between indoor air quality and phthalates is going to be discussed in this article.

Phthalates are a family of compounds that are mainly used as plasticizers and to turn PVC from a hard plastic into a flexible plastic. They are found in many different common household items. Phthalates are colorless, odorless, oily, liquids that don’t readily evaporate. They are used in making toys, soap, paint, vinyl (PVC), time-released medicines, solvents, lubricants, and other things that are commonly found in homes and businesses. Indoor air quality and phthalates were only recently brought into the forefront due to some very interesting scientific discoveries. These discoveries help to explain some of the different things that were happening in groups of specific people.
There is low volatility in the phthalates used in vinyl, so some researchers feel there is no cause for alarm in regards to air quality, at least from vinyl. But other scientists feel there is volatility in some vinyl sources, like those used in cars (you know, that new car smell?) which may be posing health risks. So for, the connection between indoor air quality and phthalates isn’t strong, though circumstantial evidence seems strong to many people.
Are phthalates sources from the air or from products? That’s still undetermined. But research continues. For example, a study in Puerto Rico has found a connection between phthalates and the increased breast growth and size of the young girls in this country. They have found that some infants are beginning to grow breasts as young as 6 months old. They previously thought that this was due to increased hormone production because of pesticides that are used in Puerto Rico, but the affected girls did not have high levels of these pesticides. The cause was recognized as phthalates exposure, due to the fact that the girls that were affected with this premature growth of breasts all had increased phthalates levels. Research is still being conducted to back up these findings.
Another potential cause of concern is the link between phthalates and some problems that are seen in boys and men. The most common link that was found was between the phthalates exposure and decrease in sperm production and testosterone levels in men. Another link was found between the incidence of phthalates and smaller penis sizes. All of these factors need further research, but the evidence so far has been quite alarming.
Research is also being done to help correlate the link between phthalate exposure and obesity. This link could be very important in helping to decrease the alarming rate of obese people and can help decrease the incidence of Type 2 Diabetes. This study mainly affects men right now, because they have found a strong connection between the levels of phthalates in urine and belly fat and insulin resistance. This study needs further research before any firm connections can be made.
Seventy-five percent of the people tested have phthalates in their urine. Research is being done all around the world to find the affects of this particular pollutant. Doing your own research is important, due to the fact that the findings change frequently because of the number of studies that are ongoing.
Indoor air quality and phthalates exposure needs further research, but some of the affects that have been linked to the exposure to this pollutant is cause for concern. My vote: be cautious and assume it’s unhealthy and avoid it as much as possible.

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