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Phthalates exposure may raise women’s diabetes risk

Increased serum levels of phthalates, endocrine-disrupting chemicals commonly found in many personal-care products and other materials, appear to be associated with an increased risk of diabetes in women, according to a study.

Tamarra James-Todd, PhD, a researcher in the Division of Women’s Health at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and colleagues analyzed urinary concentrations of phthalates in 2,350 women who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. They found that women with higher levels of phthalates in their urine were more likely to have diabetes.

Specifically, women who had the highest levels of the chemicals mono-benzyl phthalate and mono-isobutyl phthalate had almost twice the risk of diabetes compared with women who had the lowest levels of those chemicals.

Women with higher than median levels of the chemical mono-(3-carboxypropyl) phthalate had about a 60% increased risk of diabetes. Women with moderately high levels of the chemicals mono-n-butyl phthalate and di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate had approximately a 70% increased risk of diabetes.

The study population consisted of a representative sample of American women and was controlled for socio-demographic, dietary and behavioral factors. However, the women self-reported their diabetes, and researchers cautioned against reading too much into the study due to the possibility of reverse causation.

“This is an important first step in exploring the connection between phthalates and diabetes,” James-Todd said. “We know that in addition to being present in personal care products, phthalates also exist in certain types of medical devices and medication that is used to treat diabetes, and this could also explain the higher level of phthalates in diabetic women. So overall, more research is needed.”

The study appeared July 13 on the website of Environmental Health Perspectives. To read the abstract and download a PDF of the study, visit


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By | 2012-07-15T00:00:00-04:00 July 15th, 2012|Categories: National|0 Comments

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