Chemicals supposed to be safe replacements for harmful chemicals in plastics are linked to hypertension and insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes, find scientists from NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City.
The phthalate compounds in question – di-isononyl phthalate (DINP) and di-isodecyl phthalate (DIDP) – are replacements for another chemical, di-2-ethylhexylphlatate (DEHP), which the same researchers proved in previous research to have similar adverse effects.
The phthalates are meant to strengthen plastic wraps and processed food containers, among other household items. The two new pieces of research are published in the journals Hypertension and The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.
In the Hypertension study, for every 10-fold increase in the amount of phthalates consumed, there was a 1.1 millimeters of mercury (mmHg) increase in blood pressure.
In the other study, one in three adolescents with the highest DINP levels had the highest insulin resistance, while for those with the lowest concentrations of the chemicals, only 1 in 4 had insulin resistance.
Other research from Prof. Trasande in 2013 confirmed a link between DEHP exposure and hypertension in Americans. DEHP was used as a plasticizer but banned in Europe in 2004 – DINP and DIDP are designed to replace it. Perhaps the safer alternatives lie in not using plastics at all. Prof. Trasande adds that there are “safe and simple” steps that can limit exposure to phthalates, including:
- Do not microwave food in plastic containers or covered by plastic wrap
- Do not wash plastic food containers in the dishwasher, where plasticizers can leak out
- Avoid phthalates by avoiding plastic containers labeled with the numbers 3, 6 or 7 inside the recycle symbol.