Tue, Mar 12, 2019 - Page 2 News List

Pregnant women urged to avoid phthalates

LONG-TERM EFFECTS:A follow-up study is to examine the effects of cosmetics with phthalates on the children of women who used the products during pregnancy

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences researcher Wang Shu-Li, left, Deputy Director Lin Pin-pin, center, and Kaohsiung Medical University’s Research Center for Environmental Medicine Wu Ming-tsang hold a news conference in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: Lin Hui-chin, Taipei Times

Pregnant women who frequently use leave-on cosmetics and personal care products containing phthalates have higher urinary phthalate levels and their children are also likely to have allergies, a study by the National Health Research Institutes (NHRI) suggested.

Phthalates act as endocrine-disrupting chemicals and are widely used in consumer products. They are commonly added to cosmetics and personal care products, such as fragrant lotions, body washes, hair care products and nail polishes, to enhance fragrance.

A study led by Wang Shu-Li (王淑麗), a researcher at the NHRI-affiliated National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, has found associations between the usage patterns of 11 types of cosmetics and personal care products and urinary levels of phthalate metabolites in pregnant women.

The research involved 1,676 pregnant women and was conducted from 2012 to 2015.

While Diethyl phthalate (DEP) is the most commonly used phthalate in the products, the team discovered that with more frequent use of skin toners, lipsticks and essential oils, the subjects were exposed to higher concentrations of mono-ethyl phthalate (MEP), a metabolite of DEP, she said.

Categorizing the usage patterns of cosmetics and personal care products into six levels according to frequency — one to three times per month, one to three times per week, four to six times per week, once per day, twice per day and three or more times per day — they found that MEP concentrations in pregnant women who used skin toners, lipsticks and essential oils increased by 11.7 percent, 13.2 percent and 21.8 percent per level up respectively, she added.

The findings only apply to leave-on cosmetics and personal care products, Wang said, adding that no similar association was found in the usage of rinse-off products, such as shampoos and facial cleansers.

Although phthalates can be metabolized and excreted in urine or sweat, studies have suggested that phthalate exposure during pregnancy can increase the risk of giving birth to children with allergic conditions, such as asthma, so the team is conducting a follow-up study to examine the health conditions of the children borne by the pregnant women who participated in the initial study, she said.

Pregnant women should avoid using fragrant cosmetics and personal care products, reduce the frequency of applying leave-on products to prevent phthalate exposure and wash their hands with soap frequently to reduce the level of exposure, Wang said.

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