In a new study, higher prenatal exposure to phthalates- man made chemicals that interfere with hormonal messaging-has been linked to disruptive and problem behaviours in children between the ages of 4 and 9 years.
The study, which was led by Mount Sinai researchers in collaboration with scientists from Cornell University and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is the first to examine the effects of prenatal phthalate exposure on child neurobehavioral development.
"There is increasing evidence that phthalate exposure is harmful to children at all stages of development," said Stephanie Engel, lead study author and Associate Professor of Preventive Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine.
"We found a striking pattern of associations between low molecular weight phthalates - which are commonly found in personal care products - and disruptive childhood behaviours, such as aggressiveness and other conduct issues, and problems with attention. These same behavioural problems are commonly found in children diagnosed with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Oppositional Defiant Disorder, or Conduct Disorder," Engel added.
Phthalates are part of a group of chemicals known as endocrine disruptors, that interfere with the body's endocrine, or hormone system.
They are a family of compounds found in a wide range of consumer products such as nail polishes, to increase their durability and reduce chips, and in cosmetics, perfumes, lotions and shampoos, to carry fragrance.
Other phthalates are used to increase the flexibility and durability of plastics such as PVC, or included as coatings on medications or nutritional supplements to make them timed-release.
The study has been published January 28, on the Environmental Health Perspectives website.