Attention, moms-to-be: Your shower routine could cause you to go into labor prematurely.
A new study indicates that many preterm births can be directly connected to phthalates, a chemical found in commonly-used products like shampoos, body washes, and some processed foods.
The study included 130 women in the Boston area who had given birth early, before 37 weeks of pregnancy, and 352 women who delivered at full term between 2006 and 2008. The researchers measured the levels of common phthalates such as DEHP in the women’s urine up to three times during their pregnancies.
They found that women who had the highest levels of phthalate metabolites in their urine had a risk of preterm birth that was two to five times higher when compared with women who had the lowest levels.
What’s more, when the researchers looked only at the 57 women who had “spontaneous preterm delivery,” meaning they didn’t have a medical condition that could explain their early delivery, they found the link between exposure to phthalates and risk of preterm delivery was stronger, according to the study published today (Nov. 18) in JAMA Pediatrics.
“These data provide strong support for taking action in the prevention or reduction of phthalate exposure during pregnancy,” the researchers wrote in their findings. (source)
Phthalates are endocrine disruptors that have been on the radar of natural health advocates for years. Not only have they been linked to pre-term births, but they have also been connected to increased incidence of breast cancer, obesity, and birth defects. The chemical is found in many plastics, personal hygiene products, and fatty processed foods. Nearly all personal care products on the market today launch a toxic assault that is especially dangerous to pregnant women, fetuses, infants, and young children.
The Daily Green gives these tips for avoiding phthalates.
Read the ingredients. According to the organization Pollution in People, you can identify phthalates in some products by their chemical names, or abbreviations:
- DBP (di-n-butyl phthalate) and DEP (diethyl phthalate) are often found in personal care products, including nail polishes, deodorants, perfumes and cologne, aftershave lotions, shampoos, hair gels and hand lotions. (BzBP, see below, is also in some personal care products.)
- DEHP (di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate or Bis (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate) is used in PVC plastics, including some medical devices.
- BzBP (benzylbutyl phthalate) is used in some flooring, car products and personal care products.
- DMP (dimethyl phthalate) is used in insect repellent and some plastics (as well as rocket propellant).
- Be wary of the term “fragrance,” which is used to denote a combination of compounds, possibly including phthatates, which are a subject of recent concern because of studies showing they can mimic certain hormones.
- Choose plastics with the recycling code 1, 2 or 5. Recycling codes 3 and 7 are more likely to contain bisphenol A or phthalates.