Exposure to the phalates used in food packaging and other items is thought to cause significant metabolic and hormonal abnormalities, especially during early development.
The American scientists who carried out the study claim flooring, plastic cups, beach balls and plastic packaging contain the colourless and odourless toxic additives that are causing a rise in cases of juvenile high blood pressure.
Analysis of nearly 3,000 children by researchers at New York University’s Langone Medical Centre, in collaboration with researchers at the University of Washington and Penn State University School of Medicine, points the finger of blame squarely at a common class of pthalates for the first time. The report, published in the Journal of Pediatrics, said exposure to DEHP (di-2-ethyhexylphthalate), which is often used in industrial food production, is responsible for elevated systolic blood pressure – a measure of pressure in the arteries when the heart beats.
Dr Leonardo Trasande, associate professor of paediatrics, environmental medicine and population health at NYU Langone Medical Centre, said:
‘Phthalates can inhibit the function of cardiac cells and cause oxidative stress that compromises the health of arteries but no one has explored the relationship between phthalate exposure and heart health in children. ‘We wanted to examine the link between phthalates and childhood blood pressure, in particular given the increase in elevated blood pressure in children and the increasing evidence implicating exposure to environmental chemicals in early development of disease.’
The team only recorded a small rise per child in blood pressure with every three-fold increase in the level of phthalates detected in the children’s urine samples, but Dr Tresande says the wider implications of a small rise are significant.
‘[The] increment may seem very modest at an individual level, but on a population level such shifts in blood pressure can increase the number of children with elevated blood pressure substantially.
Exposure to the phalates causes elevated systolic blood pressure – a measure of pressure in the arteries when the heart beats,
‘An explosion in the number of obese people around the world is being blamed on a widespread threat to cardiac health and doctors are seeing an increase in the number of young people suffering from the condition.’
According to Dr Tresande their research shows it is not just bad diets to blame. He said:
‘Obesity is driving the trend but our findings suggest that environmental factors may also be a part of the problem.
‘This is important because phthalate exposure can be controlled through regulatory and behavioural interventions.
‘Our study underscores the need for policy initiatives that limit exposure to disruptive environmental chemicals, in combination with dietary and behavioural interventions geared toward protecting cardiovascular health.’