Exposure to PVC flooring may increase phthalate uptake in infants

By Helen Albert

Results from a Swedish study suggest that exposure to polyvinylchloride (PVC) flooring can increase the uptake of phthalates in infants.

Phthalates have been linked to endocrine disruption and exposure is thought to be associated with childhood asthma and allergies.

Previous research has suggested that the most likely route of phthalate uptake in humans is through contaminated food. However, this does not explain why infants generally show higher levels of phthalate metabolites in their bloodstream compared with adults.

To test for alternative sources of phthalate exposure and uptake in children, Fredrik Carlstedt (Primary Care Research Centre, County Council of Värmland, Karlstad, Sweden) and colleagues assessed whether exposure to PVC flooring containing phthalates could increase the level of phthalate metabolites present in urine.

The team enrolled 110 children aged 2-6 months and their mothers to take part in their study. The mothers were asked to fill out a detailed questionnaire about indoor environmental factors and family lifestyle. The children's urine was tested for the phthalate metabolites di-ethyl phthalate (DEP), di-butyl phthalate (DBP), butylbenzyl phthalate (BBzP), and di-etylhexyl phthalate (DEHP).

As reported in Indoor Air, Carlstedt and co-investigators found that levels of BBzP were higher in infants who had PVC flooring in their bedroom than those who did not. Greater body surface area was also linked to increased levels of BBzP.

Regarding the other metabolites there appeared to be higher levels of DEHP in 2-month-old infants who were not exclusively breastfed compared with those who were.

"Since there was no relation between PVC-flooring and DEHP metabolite levels in the present study this indicates that ingestion from the formulas or from mouthing of plastic household materials could be possible pathways for DEHP [uptake] in infants," suggest the authors.

"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 co-author Carl-Gustaf Bornehag, from Karlstad University, in a press statement.

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