For many years now, observational studies as well as experimental studies have noted the biological consequences of phthalate exposure on neurological development in children.
Now, in what I would call a landmark study, Engel and colleagues, looked at the association of phthalate exposure in the womb and subsequent offspring behavior.
Phthalates are used in the manufacture of plastics. They are very common in women's cosmetics including nail polish, as well as in children's toys, paints, food products, and textiles. Liquid soap, hairspray and perfume often contain phthalates.
This was a multiethnic population that was enrolled in the Mount Sinai Children's Environmental Health study which took place in New York City between 1998 and 2002.
The researchers took third trimester urine specimens from the mothers and analyzed these urine specimens for phthalate's breakdown products. Subsequently they evaluated the behavioral and cognitive development of the children between the ages of four and nine years old.
The findings are astonishing. Higher concentrations of phthalates in the mother during pregnancy were associated with poorer scores on the following indices in the children: aggression, conduct problems, attention problems, depression, and externalizing problems as well as behavioral symptom Index scales.
It was also noted that higher phthalate levels in the mother were also connected with poorer scores on the global executive composite index and the emotional control scale.
The authors also commented that the areas of behavior that are adversely associated with intrauterine phthalates are associated with children who are diagnosed with conduct or attention deficit — hyperactivity disorders.
This study puts a whole new light on the prevalence of these behavioral disorders diagnosed in our society and in so many children. Combine this with low vitamin D levels in the mother (which is needed to repair DNA mutations), along with poor diet, and we begin to see why these behavioral disorders are so common in our society.
This is one of the reasons why I advise all of my pregnant patients to use only health-food-store nail polish, no perfumes, non-toxic makeups and an organic diet when they are pregnant.
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