Obese children show greater exposure than nonobese children to a phthalate, a chemical used to soften plastics in some children’s toys and many household products. It's even found in some pacifiers!
Phthalates are found in plastic food packages, medical equipment and building materials such as vinyl flooring, and even in nonplastic personal care products, including soap, shampoo and nail polish. The obesity risk increases according to the level of the chemical found in the bloodstream.
The chemical, di-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP), is a common type of industrial chemical that is linked to endocrine disruptors, or hormone-altering agents. In a recent study, children with the highest DEHP levels had nearly five times the odds of being obese compared with children who had the lowest DEHP levels.
Endocrinologist Mi Jung Park says, "Although this study cannot prove causality between childhood obesity and phthalate exposure, it alerts the public to recognize the possible harm and make efforts to reduce this exposure, especially in children."
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