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Phthalates Heighten Risk For Childhood Asthma: Study

Update Date: Sep 17, 2014 09:24 AM EDT

A link exists between childhood asthma and  prenatal exposure to two phthalates used in a diverse array of household products, according to a new study.

Children born to mothers exposed during pregnancy to higher levels of the chemicals, butylbenzyl phthalate (BBzP) and di-n-butyl phthalate (DnBP) had a 72 percent and 78 percent increase in risk of developing asthma between age 5 and 11, respectively, compared with children of mothers with lower levels of exposure, the researchers found, according to a press release.

"Everyone from parents to policymakers is concerned by the steep rise in the number of children who develop asthma. Our goal is to try and uncover causes of this epidemic so we can better protect young children from this debilitating condition," said first author Robin Whyatt, DrPH, professor of Environmental Health Sciences and co-deputy director of the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health at the Mailman School, in the press release.

"Our study presents evidence that these two phthalates are among a range of known risk factors for asthma," added Dr. Whyatt. Other risk factors include tobacco smoke, air pollution, obesity, and a history of allergies.

Phthalates are used in array of household products, including synthetic fragrances to plastic food containers, vinyl flooring, insect repellent, shower curtains, even steering wheels and dashboards. 

In 2009, several phthalates (including BBzP and DnBP) were banned from children's toys and other childcare articles in the U.S..

The study is published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

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