'Everywhere Chemical' May Increase Childhood Cancer Risk, According to Study

Plastic has been a chemical present in modern civilization for about a century, but only in recent years have scientists begun to understand the negative health effects of ubiquitous plastic compounds found in food and food packaging, medications, perfumes, detergents, etc. The unfortunate circumstance is that plastics - in particular, phthalates - are not contained within modern consumer goods. Plastics leach into the natural environment around us, contaminating food sources, air and water.

A new study from the University of Vermont (released March 16th, 2022) set out to reveal the association between gestational/childhood exposure to phthalates and resulting incidences of childhood cancer. The research was conducted based on information from the Danish health system of babies born between 1997 to 2017, totaling just under 1.3 million children. The phthalate exposure was defined as exposure to phthalate-containing medications for prescription fills; phthalates act as an inactive ingredient in extended or delayed drug release for some anti-inflammatory drugs and antibiotics.

Research doctors found that childhood phthalate exposure (not necessarily gestational) was linked to a 20% higher cancer rate overall, with a three-fold increase in a particular bone cancer and two-fold increase in a specific blood cancer.

The research team elucidated that plastic and phthalate chemicals affect hormone levels, impacting the functional of several organs which may increase the instance of childhood cancer.

"These results add to a growing body of evidence suggesting that these ubiquitous chemicals have a negative impact on human health," said lead investigator Thomas Ahern, PhD, MPH, an associate professor at the University of Vermont's Larner College of Medicine.

"Our study characterized phthalate exposure based on prescription fills for phthalate-containing medications. While such exposures are typically much higher magnitude than what we would call 'background' environmental exposure, our findings warrant concern," Ahern said.

"While no direct correlation has been made between phthalates in our region and increased cancer risk, this study highlights the importance of environmental exposures and their relationship to cancer risk," said UVM Cancer Center director Randall Holcombe, MD, MBA.

While researchers agree that more studies need to be conducted to be conclusive, they agree that general exposure to plastics/phthalates can be detrimental to a child's health.

To learn more about how you and your family can avoid exposure to phthalates and plastic in your daily life, you can read our blog post here.