Two chemicals that are found in many types of plastic wrap, cosmetics, soap, and processed food containers may increase the risk of high blood pressure and diabetes in children and teens, according to two studies from researchers at Langone Medical Center at New York University.

The two chemicals (known as phthalates) have been used more in recent years as a supposedly safer replacement for another type of chemical (called DEHP) that was also found to be harmful to human health.

The two compounds are di-isononyl phthalate (DINP) and di-isodecyl phthalate (DIDP). The study examined the safety of the replacement phthalates, which are used to make products stronger, and found that for every tenfold increase in the amount of phthalates consumed by children and teens, there was a 1.1 millimeter increase of mercury in blood pressure. In other words, the more phthalates consumed, the higher the blood pressure in children and teens.

The studies were published in the journal Hypertension and the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

Lead investigator Dr. Leonardo Trasande, a professor at NYU Langone, recommends families take the following precautions to avoid the risk of exposure to phthalates.

  • Do not use plastic wrap or plastic containers in the microwave.
  • Hand-wash plastic containers. Chemicals often used in automatic dishwashers can encourage more transfer of plasticizers into foods.
  • Look for the numbers 3, 6, or 7 inside the recycle symbol on the bottom of plastic containers. Products marked 3,6, or 7 contain phthalates and should be avoided.

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References

1. “‘Safer’ Replacements for Harmful Chemical in Plastics May Be as Risky to Human Health, Studies Suggest.” NYU Langone Health. July 8, 2015. Retrieved from https://nyulangone.org/news/safer-replacements-harmful-chemical-plastics-may-be-risky-human-health-studies-suggest

2. “Hypertension.” AHA Journals. August 1, 2015. Retrieved from https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.115.05603

3. “Association of Exposure to Di-2-Ethylhexylphthalate Replacements With Increased Insulin Resistance in Adolescents From NHANES 2009-2012.” NIH National Library of Medicine. July 2015. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25993640/

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