A new study has warned that a common softening agent used in PVC floors may enter an infant's body either through breathing or ingestion, increasing the risk of asthma and allergies.
A new study at Karlstad University in Sweden showed that phthalates from PVC flooring materials is taken up by our bodies and children can ingest these softening agents with food but also by breathing and through the skin.
Phthalates are substances which are suspected to cause asthma and allergies and other chronic diseases in children.
Phthalates are a group of chemical compounds that occur in construction materials and a great number of common consumer goods such as toys, cleaning solvents, packaging, etc.
Phthalates are suspected of disrupting hormones as well.
Flooring materials using softened PVC contain phthalates and have previously been shown to be a major source of phthalates in indoor dust.
This new study was modelled to investigate whether flooring materials using PVC and other housing-related factors, together with other individual factors, can be tied to the uptake of phthalates by infants.
Urine samples were taken from 83 randomly selected children ranging between the ages of 2 and 6 months by the county council in V?rmland in western Sweden.
The prevalence of four types of phthalates in the urine was measured, and data were collected about flooring materials and the home, the family's lifestyle, and individual factors for the children.
The levels of certain phthalates (MBzP, a BBzP metabolite) proved to be higher in the urine of the infants that had PVC materials on their bedroom floor.
The levels of another phthalate metabolite linked to DEHP were lower in 2-month-old children if they were exclusively breastfed, with no supplements.
Earlier studies from the current group have shown that PVC flooring can be tied to the presence of phthalates in indoor dust, and that exposure for BBzP in indoor dust could be associated with allergic conditions in children.
These new data thus show that the uptake of phthalates in babies can be related to flooring materials using softened PVC in the home.
It should also be pointed out that both DEHP and BBzP are banned from being used in toys for small children owing to health risks.
"With this study as a basis, we can establish that there are other sources that should be taken into consideration in regard to the uptake of banned chemicals and that we do not only ingest them in our food," said Carl-Gustaf Bornehag, professor of public health at Karlstad University and leader of the study.
The findings also suggest that phthalates can be taken up in different ways, both through food and probably through breathing and through the skin.