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Chemicals in Nail Polish, Hair Sprays Tied to Increased Diabetes Risk

By Chemicals in Nail Polish, Hair Sprays Tied to Increased Diabetes Risk

Posted: Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A study lead by researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) shows an association between increased concentrations of phthalates in the body and an increased risk of diabetes in women.

Phthalates are endocrine disrupting chemicals that are commonly found in personal care products such as moisturizers, nail polishes, soaps, hair sprays and perfumes. They are also used in adhesives, electronics, toys and a variety of other products.

Researchers analyzed urine samples from 2,350 women who participated in the long-running National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a nationally representative sample of American women. They were looking for concentrations of chemicals known as phthalates, which are often found in personal care products and in adhesives, electronics, products used to manufacture cars, toys, packaging and even some coatings for medications.

The researchers found that women with the highest concentrations of two types of phthalates - mono-benzyl phthalate and mono-isobutyl phthalate - were nearly two times more likely to have diabetes compared to women with the least amounts of these chemicals. Women with moderately high levels of the phthalates mono-n-butyl phthalate and di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate were 70 percent more likely to have diabetes compared to their counterparts.

Dr. Tamara James-Todd, a researcher in women's health at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, said in a press release that, "This is an important first step in exploring the connection between phthalates and diabetes." The researchers could not prove that phthalates caused diabetes or having diabetes increased concentrations of the chemicals in a person's body.

"We know that in addition to being present in personal care products, phthalates also exist in certain types of medical devices and medication that is used to treat diabetes and this could also explain the higher level of phthalates in diabetic women," she added. "So overall, more research is needed."

One of the problems is that chemicals like phthalates are practically unavoidable, according to Dr. Kenneth Spaeth, director of the Occupational and Environmental Medicine Center's department of population health at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y., who was not involved in the study. Spaeth added that, "These chemicals are unfortunately ubiquitous and it is pretty clear from studies that we're exposed all day long to these various household or personal care products."

It's a real challenge to reduce phthalate exposure because sometimes the chemical is a metabolic byproduct of another ingredient or a product label may not say it contains phthalates only for phthalates to be found in the packaging the product came in, which does not need to be mentioned on a product label.

"It's really hard to make informed decisions about these kinds of things," he said. "Maybe we'll get to a point when the health effects are more widely recognized, that there will be incentive to change how products are made and packaged."

However Spaeth did say research has shown phthalates can find their way into household dust and people sometimes ingest them that way, so simple steps like frequent vacuuming and dusting, or washing your hands regularly before eating may decrease risk.

Practice Pearls:

  • Women who had the highest levels of the chemicals mono-benzyl phthalate and mono-isobutyl phthalate had almost twice the risk of diabetes compared to women with the lowest levels of those chemicals.
  • Women with higher than median levels of the chemical mono-(3-carboxypropyl) phthalate had approximately a 60 percent increased risk of diabetes.
  • Women with moderately high levels of the chemicals mono-n-butyl phthalate and di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate had approximately a 70 percent increased risk of diabetes.  

Source: http://www.diabetesincontrol.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=13173&catid=53&Itemid=8, Environmental Health Perspectives Journal July 2012.

 
 
 
 
 
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