The next plastics health scare is here

The charge, delivered in a study from the Mt. Sinai Center for Childrens Environmental Health, is that these chemicals are endocrine disrupters, and may be responsible for the rise in childhood obesity and Type II diabetes.

Now that you've dumped your old Nalgene bottle because of BPA, you're just in time for the next health scare involving plastics.

This time the target are phthalates, plasticizers used in medical tubing, dialysis bags, clothing and building materials.

(Until this most recent report opponents of phthalates have emphasized their use in toys like this rubber ducky, as here at the Notquitecrunchyparent blog.)

While BPA is made by condensing phenol and acetone in the presence of an acid, phthalates are the most common form of plastcizer, made through a simple reaction of alcohol and acid.

The charge, delivered in a study from the Mt. Sinai Center for Childrens Environmental Health, is that these chemicals are endocrine disrupters, and may be responsible for the rise in childhood obesity and Type II diabetes.

The Daily Green is already out with a list of precautions, which focus on avoiding product with the vague ingredient "fragrances" and choosing plastic containers with the recycling codes 1, 2, or 5, never 3 or 7.

There has been an ongoing debate about plasticizers and cancer for over a decade, but the Growing Up Healthy studies are the first to make a link between diabetes and phthlates. This was done by simply examining the urine of young girls, and finding that the heaviest girls were those with the highest concentrations of phthalates in their bodies.

Phthalates were removed from toys last year, and the industry is already pushing back, pushing interviews with Bush-era scientists who called it unnecessary. A 2008 government study on the risks of phthalates questions the methods by which such risks are assessed.

It should be noted here that the link between phthalates and diabetes is not yet proven. But if this or the cancer link is proven, and there is little the industry seems able to do to stop the science, it's going to cause a big, big problem.

Getting BPA out of our lives will be a piece of cake next to getting rid of the softeners in our plastics.