Daily exposure to phthalates, a class of chemicals found in everything from plastic containers to makeup, may cause 100,000 deaths in older Americans each year, according to a study released Tuesday by New York University.
For decades, it has been known that the chemicals, which can be found in hundreds of products such as toys, clothing, and shampoo, are “hormone disruptors,” affecting a person’s endocrine system.
According to the study published in the journal Environmental Pollution, the toxins can enter the body through such items and are linked to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
“Our findings reveal that increased phthalate exposure is linked to early death, particularly due to heart disease,” as per study lead author Leonardo Trasande.
“Until now, we have understood that the chemicals connect to heart disease, and heart disease in turn is a leading cause of death, but we had not yet tied the chemicals themselves to death.”
However, Trasande cautioned that the study does not establish a direct cause and effect relationship between phthalate exposure and death, in part because the specific biological mechanisms underlying that relationship are unknown.
“Our research suggests that the toll of this chemical on society is much greater than we first thought,” Trasande said, adding that it “is undeniably clear that limiting exposure to toxic phthalates can help safeguard Americans’ physical and financial wellbeing.”
Other studies have already linked phthalates to over 10,000 deaths per year in adult men due to low testosterone levels. According to the study, the economic loss caused by phthalates is between $40 billion and $47 billion, which is more than four times what was previously estimated.