For people with high phthalate levels, the risk of developing diabetes was about double compared to those with lower levels, the investigators found.
Some phthalates were also linked to disrupted insulin production, the researchers said. Insulin is a hormone that helps deliver blood sugar into the body's cells for energy. Without insulin, or with too little of the hormone, too much sugar stays in the blood, setting the stage for diabetes.
"Even at relatively low levels of phthalate in the blood, the risk of getting diabetes begins to rise," Lind added.
Other studies have linked these chemicals with breast growth in boys and reproductive problems in men, possibly caused by estrogen disruption.
Phthalates are used in hundreds of products, such as toys, vinyl flooring and wall coverings, detergents, lubricating oils, food packaging, pharmaceuticals, blood bags and tubing, according to information from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Personal care products, such as nail polish, hair sprays and shampoos, also contain phthalates.
At present, "the FDA does not have compelling evidence that phthalates, as used in cosmetics, pose a safety risk," according to the FDA website.
In the United States, companies are not required to test the long-term health effects of chemicals before using them in consumer products. Lind said this means the dangers of hazardous chemicals aren't known until they are already widely used.
Lind said the health effects of chemicals should be tested before they reach the consumer market similar to the way drugs get tested before being approved.
"We are looking at a tip of an iceberg," she said in terms of a possible health crisis. "We are just scratching the very top of the iceberg."
The way the system is designed, if phthalates were banned, they would be replaced by other chemicals about which even less is known, Lind said.
According to the Environmental Workin
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