Preliminary research indicates that phthalates, a common chemical in plastics, may be a causing the abnormal growth of breasts in males. The study was published in the medical journal Pediatrics, in which boys with abnormally enlarged breasts were found to have 2.8 to 25 times the levels of phthalates in their blood than those with normal sized breasts.
Previous research has alluded to phthalates disrupting hormone levels, particularly estrogen and testosterone. A small study suggested that pregnant women expecting a boy, who had high levels of phthalates in their blood, made the newborn more inclined to play with toys associated with girls.
Exposure to phthalates is extremely difficult to avoid as they are found in many plastic products. Shower curtains, food containers, plastic wraps, some children’s toys, building materials, some prescription pill encasings, and adhesives, all contain the chemical. Additionally phthalates are found in many perfumes, hair sprays, liquid soaps and other personal care products.
The study has resulted in calls for additional research to determine the safety of such a commonly used chemical. It is estimated that about one billion pounds of phthalates are produced worldwide each year.
To limit your exposure to phthalates look at ingredient labels of personal care products and avoid anything with an ingredient that ends with the word “phthalate”. Also try finding a phthalate-free shower curtain from a natural market and avoid putting food in plastics whenever possible, especially plastic numbers 3 and 7. Furthermore, try avoiding fragrances that do not state to be phthalate-free.
Doheny, Kathleen. “Phthalates Affect Way Young Boys Play.” WebMD. 16 Nov. 2009. Web. 23 Dec. 2009. <http://children.webmd.com/news/20091116/phthalates-affect-way-young-boys-play>.
Erdem Durmaz, Elif N. Özmert, Pinar Erkekoglu, Belma Giray, Orhan Derman, Filiz Hincal, and Kadriye Yurdakök
Plasma Phthalate Levels in Pubertal Gynecomastia
Pediatrics 2009 : peds.2009-0724v1-peds.2009-0724.