A new study links phthalates, a common ingredient in the beauty aisle, to a higher risk of diabetes in women. Researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital discovered that those with larger levels of certain types of phthalates (mono-benzyl and mono-isobutyl) in their urine were at twice the risk of diabetes. And di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP), which has been found in some fragrances, may increase the possibility of diabetes up to 70 percent. "This is an important first step in exploring the connection between phthalates and diabetes," said lead scientist Dr. Tamarra James-Todd.
Companies use this "plasticizer" to preserve the scent in skin care products, give hair spray movement, and diminish cracking in nail polish. But phthalates have garnered negative attention as they are thought to mimic and disrupt hormones. Currently the FDA has no official regulations regarding the chemical in beauty, but they do advise manufacturers to choose safer alternatives to di-n-butyl phthalate (DBP) or DEHP when it comes to their inclusion in certain drug and biologic products. Keep reading for more.
UK-based Cosmetic Toiletry and Perfumery Association has responded to the findings, stating that some of the phthalates mentioned in the study aren't often found in personal care products. Even Dr. James-Todd acknowledges further examination is required. "We know that in addition to being present in personal care products, phthalates also exist in certain types of medical devices and medication that is used to treat diabetes and this could also explain the higher level of phthalates in diabetic women. So overall, more research is needed," she said.
How to identify a phthalate? Look for abbreviations on the back of your products. DBP, DEP (diethyl phthalate), and DMP (dimethyl phthalate) could be in your shampoos, deodorants, and lotions. Also, be suspicious of the term "fragrance." Companies don't have to list the phthalates when using this catch-all term. Although the latest research isn't quite conclusive, expect to see more findings on the great phthalate debate for months to come.