You may know phthalates to be the ‘sister’ chemicals that oftentimes accompany toxic bisphenol A (BPA) in many plastic containers and food packaging. While less frequently discussed than BPA, phthalates are a threat to human health that could especially be impacting the health of pregnant mothers and fetuses alike. According to new research, phthalates may be associated with an increase in miscarriage risk due to the fact that the industrial chemicals can lower sperm counts and boost a woman’s chance of infertility.
In a study published in Environmental Health Perspectives, researchers analyzed the link between pregnancy loss and urine levels of phthalates. The ubiquitous nature of phthalates makes them a challenge to avoid, with the chemicals typically being used in plastic containers, synthetic fragrances, pesticides, and soft vinyl products. Looking specifically at two phthalates used in vinyl products and the synthetic fragrances known as DEHP and DEP, the scientists reached a shocking conclusion.
Over the course of the two-year study involving Danish women who were trying to become pregnant and had not previously conceived a child, the study authors established a connection between high urine levels of phthalates and pregnancy loss. In fact, vinyl phthalate DEHP levels were 30% higher in women who experienced miscarriages. Furthermore, the researchers noted that higher levels of DEHP actually indicated a higher likelihood of experiencing a miscarriage despite similar lifestyle choices.
In the past, phthalates have also been linked to a number of other health conditions. Among the conditions, one of the most startling is the relationship between phthalates and atherosclerosis, which is the hardening of the arteries through the buildup of unwanted hard structures known as plaques. In addition to damaged arteries, phthalates have also been linked to asthma and allergies, hastened puberty, and a host of other conditions. In order to reduce your risk of phthalate exposure, it is recommended to avoid or limit the use of plastic water bottles, processed food packaging, and synthetic fragrances.