"Right now, manufacturers aren't required to label them, so it's difficult to know if you're using a product with phthalates," explained Sathyanarayana.
Most of the infants studied -- 81 percent -- had detectable levels of phthalate metabolites. Because the researchers also asked the parents about which products had been used on the babies, they were also able to see an association between higher levels of phthalate metabolites and the use of baby shampoo, lotion and powder. Diaper creams and baby wipes didn't appear to increase the concentration of phthalate metabolites in the urine, according to Sathyanarayana.
Findings from the study are published in the February issue of Pediatrics.
"We believe that there is potential value in the study of metabolized phthalates. But we take great exception to any effort to draw unfounded conclusions that suggest human health risks are associated with the mere presence of very low levels of metabolized phthalates in urine," Marian Stanley, manager of the Phthalates Esters Panel of the American Chemistry Council, a plastics industry trade group, said in a statement.
"With phthalates in particular, there's good research in multiple animal studies that these compounds can be harmful. It's interesting that industry is willing to accept animal studies to introduce new medication, but when something is found to be harmful, industry says, 'Well, those studies were just done on rats,' " said Dr. Jonathan Weinkle, a physician at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh and the University of Pittsburgh's Cancer Institute's Center for Environmental Oncology. "If animals are useful models for things that are helpful,
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