Archive | August, 2015

Phthalates and their effect on human health

Phthalates are one of the most ubiquitous chemicals in our environment today. The effect of phthalates on human health has been the source of research for many years. What has surprised me over the years is the amount of denial from both the medical field and industry. In this blog post, I will link the reader to a number of studies on the effect of phthalates on human health. If you want to review the long list of studies on phthalates, you can click here.


The Phthalate Molecule

Part of the activity of phthalates is its depressing effect on testosterone. This may be why I’ve been approached by a number of universities asking why they are seeing young males between the ages of 18-25 having testosterone levels of 60-70 year old men. I thought it was likely due to exposure to phthalates and lo and behold, when a mid west university tested a number of boys, they indeed had high urinary phthalate levels.

The question that needs answering of course is, ‘where are they getting all of those phthalates?’ The answer that we came up with was a popular body spray that is marketed to young males which contains five ¬†different forms of phthalates. The ads for the product tout how using it will attract women to the user but the problem is the males won’t know what to do when they get there.

Here are a few links to show the negative effect of phthalates.

There was a study published in my favorite journal, Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP), that suggested a link between breast cancer and phthalates, in particular, diethyl phthalate, in 2010. You can read it here. 

In the September 2012 issue of, data gathered from NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey), showed a link between urinary phthalate levels and diabetes in women. Click here to read the paper.

Allergy in adults has been linked to urinary phthalate levels in an October 2013 paper you can read by clicking here.

Phthalates effects on adults is considerable, but the issues it causes with children and developing fetuses is even more dramatic. In this study, published in October of 2011, phthalates were negatively implicated in mental and psychomotor development in infants, with the greatest impact on males.

May of 2014 was when a study showing a mothers exposure to phthalates linked to behavioral problems in young 6-10 year old boys.

Next time, I will link a few more studies implicating phthalates and other illness and negative health and behavioral outcomes.

Don’t forget to click on the library link above to see what books I’ve recommended.


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Arsenic and hypertension

In a recent study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, researchers led by Jiang, et al, revealed that arsenic can increase the risk for developing hypertension (high blood pressure). The study looked at people in Bangladesh whose water supply (wells) has been found to be contaminated with arsenic. You may ask how that would affect people in the rest of the world. Arsenic in the environment is almost universal, contaminating our water supply and our food chain.



One of the main sources of arsenic in our diet is through the consumption of rice. It is estimated that rice will soak in up to 10 times the arsenic that other grains will. Also, a number of strains have been bred to thrive in high arsenic fields. All of this should make people reduce the amount of rice in their diets.

Removing or reducing rice is a difficult dietary change. If that is not an option, there are things you can do to lower the amount of arsenic in rice. The most important thing you can do is select a strain that is grown in low arsenic areas such as California. Rice grown in Asia seems to be much higher in arsenic content. The other thing you need to do is to rinse your rice, dispose of the water and then cook it. While it doesn’t eliminate the heavy metal, it does reduce it by a significant amount.

Children should be the one group that needs to greatly reduce their rice intake as they, along with the elderly are at greatest risk for detrimental health outcomes due to arsenic exposure. Rice milk is to be avoided at all costs as it has higher levels of arsenic than is allowable in drinking water.

If you want to learn more about this go to the Environmental Working Groups page on the subject by clicking here.

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