26 May 2012

PVC flooring chemicals taken up by skin contact

by Will Parker

Higher levels of the plastics chemicals known as phthalates have been found in children from homes containing PVC flooring materials, suggesting these softening agents can be absorbed by contact with the skin. The study, from Karlstad University in Sweden, shows that ingestion with food is not the only way that phthalates can be absorbed into the body.

Phthalates are a group of chemical compounds that are used in many common consumer goods such as toys, cleaning solvents and packaging materials. They are suspected of disrupting the hormonal system and may be related to several chronic diseases in children, such as asthma and allergies. This new study was designed to investigate whether flooring materials using PVC are associated with the uptake of phthalates by infants.

The study involved taking urine samples from children aged between two and six months. The prevalence of four types of phthalates in the urine was measured, and data were collected about flooring materials and the home, the family's lifestyle, and individual factors for the infants. The levels of phthalate metabolites proved to be higher in babies that had PVC materials on their bedroom floor. The levels of another phthalate metabolite were lower in two-month-old children if they were exclusively breastfed, with no supplements.

"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," says Carl-Gustaf Bornehag, professor of public health at Karlstad University and lead author of the study. "The findings also show that phthalates can be taken up in different ways, both through food and probably through breathing and through the skin."

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Source: Swedish Research Council