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Breast Growth in Boys Might Be Linked to Plastics Chemical
Date:12/15/2009

But it's still too early to say that phthalates actually cause the condition, experts say

TUESDAY, Dec. 15 (HealthDay News) -- Common chemicals found in plastic toys and elsewhere could contribute to the abnormal growth of breasts in boys, preliminary research suggests.

The research, published in a prominent medical journal for pediatricians, adds fuel to the debate over these chemicals, called phthalates, whose safety has been questioned by some scientists. The chemical industry claims the ubiquitous manmade chemicals, which are used to soften plastics and stabilize fragrances, are safe.

The small study only involved a few dozen boys, but if more research confirms that the chemicals boost estrogen levels, as some scientists suspect, then "we need to start thinking about how we can approach chemical policy and chemical regulation so we don't have phthalates causing this effect," said Dr. Sheela Sathyanarayana, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington, who is familiar with the study findings.

Phthalates are found in everyday products, including baby toys, plastic wrap, electronics and shower curtains, and in personal care products, such as perfume and shampoo. They're also found in food, since much of what people eat is exposed to plastics.

Some research has linked phthalates to disrupted hormone levels. Most recently, a small study suggested that exposure to phthalates in the womb might make boys more likely to play with toys typically associated with girls, although there were caveats to that research, and a spokesman for the American Chemistry Council dismissed the findings at the time.

In the new study, Turkish researchers tested 40 boys who were newly diagnosed with gynecomastia -- enlarged breasts -- and 21 boys who didn't have the condition. The researchers checked the levels of phthalates-related substances in their blood.

The levels were 2.8 to
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