Dangerous Dust? Chemicals in Plastics Are Tied to Allergies

By Harder, B. | Science News, July 24, 2004 | Go to article overview

Dangerous Dust? Chemicals in Plastics Are Tied to Allergies


Harder, B., Science News


Household exposure to synthetic chemicals commonly used in plastics and other products appears to increase a person's risk of developing allergies. At least two such chemicals, called phthalates, are more abundant in dust from homes where children have allergy-related illnesses than in dust from the homes of symptomfree children, a Scandinavian study has found.

Phthalates are ingredients in soft plastics, such as those used to make vinyl flooring. They're also used as softening agents in cosmetics and plastic toys.

To determine whether high concentrations of phthalates in dust correlate with allergies, Carl-Gustaf Bornehag of Karlstad University in Sweden and his colleagues visited the homes of 400 Swedish children. About half the kids had at least two of the following conditions: asthma, eczema, and rhinitis, which is an inflammation of the nose's mucous membrane. The other children selected for the study had none of these.

Children exposed to household dust with the greatest concentrations of di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) were 2.9 times as likely to have asthma as were children exposed to the lowest concentrations of that phthalate. Similarly, children in homes with the greatest concentrations of butyl benzyl phthalate were 3.0 and 2.6 times as likely as the other children to have rhinitis and eczema, respectively, Bornehag and his colleagues report in an upcoming Environmental Health Perspectives.

Four other phthalates showed no significant link with any of the three disorders.

The new study is the first to reveal different phthalate exposures in children with and without allergy-related illnesses, says toxicologist Gunnar Damgaard Nielsen of the National Institute of Occupational Health in Copenhagen. …

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Dangerous Dust? Chemicals in Plastics Are Tied to Allergies
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