Researchers from the Children’s Environmental Health Center at The Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York have recently found a link between exposure to phthalates and childhood obesity in young children. Researchers working on this study measured phthalate concentrations in the urine of 387 children plus recorded body measurements including BMI, height, and waist circumference one year later. Urine tests revealed that shockingly, more than 97% of all the children were, at some point exposed to phthalates and the researchers guess that body care products may be to blame. Children exposed to the highest concentrations of chemicals also had larger BMI results and larger waist circumference results. BMI and waist circumference are both likely to be higher in overweight or obese children. The study’s lead author Susan Teitelbaum, PhD, Associate Professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, notes:

Research has shown that exposure to these everyday chemicals may impair childhood neurodevelopment, but this is the first evidence demonstrating that they may contribute to childhood obesity. This study also further emphasizes the importance of reducing exposure to these chemicals where possible.

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Phthalates are man-made, endocrine-disrupting chemicals known to be extremely harmful, even if you don’t consider the obesity slant. Thus far, phthalates have been linked to endocrine system disruption, reduced sperm counts, testicular atrophy and structural abnormalities in the reproductive systems of males and liver cancer. This chemical is typically found in personal care products such as perfume, lotions, nail polish and cosmetics; varnishes; medication or nutritional supplement coatings; plastic flooring and wall coverings; food processing materials; toys and more. Beyond childhood exposure, children may also be exposed to phthalates by their mother while she’s pregnant. Currently, The Nemours Foundation notes that 1 in 3 kids in America are overweight or obese. While there’s no doubt that excessive portion sizes and an almost total lack of exercise contribute heavily to the childhood obesity epidemic, it’s scary that chemicals, which are all around us, may also play a part. You can help lower your own child’s exposure by using safe, non-toxic bath products and by avoiding plastic toys, plastic water bottles and other child products containing harmful chemicals.

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