It’s nearly impossible to avoid all the hormone disrupting chemicals in our society so it’s important to do so when we can and maintain high levels of antioxidants in our bodies for when we can’t. New research from the NYU Grossman School of Medicine shows phthalates, a chemical found in food wrappers, cosmetics and other products, are linked to deaths from heart disease and an increase in all-cause mortality.
Researchers estimate phthalate exposure is responsible for about 100,000 premature deaths each year with an annual economic burden of more than $40 billion. The results of the study were published in the journal Environmental Pollution.
Scientists have found phthalates pose a danger to humans because the chemicals interfere with the function of hormones, compounds that influence bodily processes made in the glands. They say we come in contact with those chemicals they build up in our bodies and can affect changes leading to obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
The NYU team looked at data from more than 5,000 adults between the ages of 55 and 64 back in 2001 and found those with the highest concentrations of phthalate in their urine were more likely to die of heart disease than those with lower concentrations. The same was true when it came to all-cause mortality.
Interestingly, the increased phthalate concentrations did not equate to an increased risk of dying from cancer.
"Our findings reveal that increased phthalate exposure is linked to early death, particularly due to heart disease," says study lead author Leonardo Trasande, MD, MPP. "Until now, we have understood that the chemicals connect to heart disease, and heart disease in turn is a leading cause of death, but we had not yet tied the chemicals themselves to death."
Trasande stopped short of saying phthalate exposure was the direct cause because the biological mechanism responsible for the connection is unclear, but he believes there is a strong association. He plans to research what role these chemicals may play in the development of inflammation in the body. He found through previous research there is a link between phthalate exposure and lowered testosterone levels in men.
"Our research suggests that the toll of this chemical on society is much greater than we first thought," says Trasande, who also serves as director of the NYU Langone's Center for the Investigation of Environmental Hazards. "The evidence is undeniably clear that limiting exposure to toxic phthalates can help safeguard Americans' physical and financial well-being."