Endocrine Disruptors and Asthma-Associated Chemicals in Consumer Products

Article excerpt

BACKGROUND: Laboratory and human studies raise concerns about endocrine disruption and asthma resulting from exposure to chemicals in consumer products. Limited labeling or testing information is available to evaluate products as exposure sources.

OBJECTIVES: We analytically quantified endocrine disruptors and asthma-related chemicals in a range of cosmetics, personal care products, cleaners, sunscreens, and vinyl products. We also evaluated whether product labels provide information that can be used to select products without these chemicals.

METHODS: We selected 213 commercial products representing 50 product types. We tested 42 composited samples of high-market-share products, and we tested 43 alternative products identified using criteria expected to minimize target compounds. Analytes included parabens, phthalates, bisphenol A (BPA), tridosan, ethanolamines, alkylphenols, fragrances, glycol ethers, cyclosiloxanes, and ultraviolet (UV) filters.

RESULTS: We detected 55 compounds, indicating a wide range of exposures from common products. Vinyl products contained > 10% bis(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) and could be an important source of DEHP in homes. In other products, the highest concentrations and numbers of detects were in the fragranced products (e.g., perfume, air fresheners, and dryer sheets) and in sunscreens. Some products that did not contain the well-known endocrine-disrupting phthalates contained other less-studied phthalates (dicyclohexyl phthalate, diisononyl phthalate, and di-n-propyl phthalate; also endocrine-disrupting compounds), suggesting a substitution. Many detected chemicals were not listed on product labels.

CONCLUSIONS: Common products contain complex mixtures of EDCs and asthma-related compounds. Toxicological studies of these mixtures are needed to understand their biological activity. Regarding epidemiology, our findings raise concern about potential confounding from co-occurring chemicals and misclassification due to variability in product composition. Consumers should be able to avoid some target chemicals--synthetic fragrances, BPA, and regulated active ingredients--using purchasing criteria. More complete product labeling would enable consumers to avoid the rest of the target chemicals.

KEY WORDS: alkylphenols, asthma, bisphenol A, consumer products, cyclosiloxane, endocrine disruptors, fragrance compounds, parabens, phthalates, UV filters. Environ Health Perspect 120:935-943 (2012). http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.1104052 [Online 8 Mar 2012]

Chemicals contained in consumer products are ubiquitous in human tissues, sometimes at high concentrations [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 2009] and in house-hold air and dust (Rudel and Perovich 2009; Rudel et al. 2003, 2010; Weschler 2009). Studies of pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) flame retardants, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in homes provide some information about sources, exposure pathways, and exposure reduction options (Dodson et al. 2008; Lorber 2008; Rudel et al. 2008; Iota et al. 2008). However, for many common commercial chemicals, limited information is available about how specific consumer products contribute to exposure. In particular, little information is available about exposures from personal care and cleaning products.

Many of these products may be sources of chemicals that have a diverse spectrum of health effects, including endocrine disruption and associations with asthma. Endocrine-disrupting compounds (EDCs) are chemicals that can alter hormonal signaling and have potential effects on developing reproductive and nervous systems, metabolism, and cancer (Colborn et al. 1993). Some phthalates inhibit testosterone synthesis (Howdeshell et al. 2008), and antimicrobials such as triclosan suppress thyroid hormone (Paul a al. 2010) and are estrogenic (Stoker et al. 2010) in mammalian models. …