Monday, November 16, 2009

Common chemical in plastic linked to girly-boy play

Phthalates are a common additive to plastics to help them stay pliable. You find them in PVC, plastic tubing, some soaps and lotions. One way they get into the body is by being released when the plastic is heated, for example in a microwave with food in a plastic bowl. Another way is by rubbing them on a baby's skin in lotion or powder. 

We already knew that exposure to phthalates are a risk factor for low-birth-weight babies, obese diabetic men, and does bad stuff to little boys' genitals. This is why they are now banned in teethers, play bath items, soft books, dolls and plastic figures.

Now we know it makes little boys play like girls. Researchers contacted mothers of children ages 3 1/2 to 6 1/2 years from a previous survey and had them fill out the Preschool Activities Inventory (PSAI), which is:

(D)esigned to discriminate play behavior within and between the sexes, and in the past has been shown to reflect the endocrine-disrupting properties of other toxins, such as PCBs and dioxins. The PSAI addressed three aspects of play: types of toys children choose (trucks versus dolls), activities (rough-and-tumble play, for example), and child characteristics…. Higher scores meant more male-typical play and lower scores meant more female-typical play.
Then they compared play-behavior scores and the levels of phthalate metabolites in their mothers' prenatal urine samples, finding that higher concentrations of the chemicals were associated with less masculine play behavior scores. They think it may involve changing testosterone levels in the womb.

Moral: Don't microwave your food in plastic containers or dishes.

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