Breathing in Plastic May Limit Exhaling

Child asthma sufferers exposed to chemicals in plastics may wheeze more

(RxWiki News) Those hardy plastic containers holding your shampoo or kids' toys may not be the safest thing for your child, especially if they have asthma.

Children exposed to various extra chemicals commonly found in personal care and plastic products have an increased risk of having asthma-related swelling in their airways, a new study has found.

This means for asthma sufferers, watch which household products interact with children.

"Keep your home safe for kids."

Phthalate chemicals, or "plasticizers," are used to make toys, nail polish, hair spray, shampoo, and a number of other daily products.

They contain the chemicals diethyl phthalate (DEP) and butylbenzyl phthalate (BBzP).

The study, led by Allan Just, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher at the Harvard School of Public Health and other researchers at the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health, examined phthalates in 244 children between ages 5 and 9.

Higher phthalate levels are linked with higher levels of nitric oxide, a sign for inflamed airways, when people exhale.

The children were enrolled at the center in the Mothers and Newborns study.

All had detectable levels of phthalates in their urine, and they come from the South Bronx and Northern Manhattan where asthma is common.

"While many factors contribute to childhood asthma, our study shows that exposure to phthalates may play a significant role," Dr. Just said in a press release.

Researchers found that children with higher levels of BBzP exhaled about 7 percent more nitric oxide, linking exposure and inflamed airways among children.

Whether the chemical caused the inflammation is not exactly known.

And the association was significantly stronger among children who recently reported wheeze.

The study, which was supported by the National Institutes of Health, US Environmental Protection Agency and John and Wendy Neu Family Foundation, was published online August 23 in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

The authors do not declare any conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
September 24, 2012