KM and the Committee on the Environment. 2003. Pediatric
exposure and potential toxicity of phthalate plasticizers.
scientific findings on phthalates and sperm
a review of the possible health risks created by exposure in the
womb and during early childhood, the American Academy of Pediatrics'
Committee on the Environment finds that there are too few
human studies to conclude phthalates are safe. None have
examined risks to fetuses in the womb or during early childhood.
Yet animal studies clearly establish that these life stages are
the most sensitive to phthalate exposures. The pediatricians write
that "Phthalates are animal carcinogens and can cause fetal
death, malformations,and reproductive toxicity in laboratory animals."
And they call for research on the effects of phthalates on vulnerable
times of life, particularly in the womb and during early childhood.
the meantime, a series of studies inarguably establish widespread
human exposures. And as the Academy report notes, replacements for
phthalate uses could be designed. Indeed, in two common uses of
phthalates creating exposures today--for cosmetics and certain types
of medical equipment--replacements are already available.
review concludes with a series of cautiously worded findings, summarized
are of concern because of known toxicities established through
exposure to phthalates is universal. Food is considered to be
the major source of exposure to DEHP and DINP; medical exposures
are also important for DEHP.
data indicate that DEHP and DINP are animal carcinogens, the mechanisms
involved may not be relevant to carcinogenesis in people. Both,
however, are developmental toxicants, with the developing male
reproductive system the most sensitive system identified to date.
These mechanisms are different from those involved in carcinogenesis.
studies have been performed to evaluate human toxicity from exposure
to these compounds." [ed. note: actually in Winter 2002/Spring
studies were published suggesting adverse effects in adult
men's sperm quality.]
may be at higher risk of adverse effects of phthalates, "because
of anticipated higher exposures during a time of developmental
and physiologic immaturity."
to DEHP resulting from the use of DEHP-containing PVC-made medical
equipment "are of concern." Doses within the range of
those caused by intensive medical treatment are known to cause
damage to the immature male reproductive tract in animals. "No
studies evaluate the effect of medical exposures to DEHP and [its
metabolite] MEHP on testicular function in humans."
institutions may find it necessary to reassess uses of phthalate-containing
medical equipment, including in neonatal and pediatric intensive
care units. While phthalate-containing PVCs offer some advantages,
"interventions designed to minimize DEHP exposure in the
medical setting could be designed.
data on phthalate exposures in the womb and in childhood, and
about phthalate toxicology in general, would help guide decisions
about risks and replacements. This should include research into
phthalates effects on non-human primates as well as studies of
sensitive human populations, such as pregnant and lactating women,
premature infants, full-term infants, and children.
assessment falls far short of resolving the very public controversy
over health risks of phthalate exposure, it does serve to disprove
unequivocally the frequent assertion by industry that decades of
experience and exposure to phthalates establishes their safety:
Absence of proof of harm of phthalates can only be taken
to be proof of ignorance, not a demonstration of safety.