NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Two new studies find that certain chemicals can delay a child’s language development.
They’re a family of chemicals called phthalates and they are everywhere.
All Americans reportedly have phthalates in their bodies because they’re found in everything from toys, to household goods, to medical equipment, to personal care products.
But researchers say at least two of them may affect brain development.
Since her daughter was just a baby, Laura Smith has tried to keep chemicals out of her home and away from now three-year-old Cecily.
“I actually read the labels to see what’s in it and go to various websites that are known to compare different products,” Smith said.
The trouble is some of the potentially harmful chemicals are in products that don’t have to label their contents. Even if they were labeled, avoiding them had to start even before Cecily was born.
Dr. Shanna Swan of Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine is an author on one of the two studies – one in the U.S. and the other in Sweden – looking at phthalates.
“There are two that were found to be bad actors… DBP and BBP. Those are found in lots of household products like wall coverings and floor coverings, furniture, upholstery,” Dr. Swan told CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez.
The studies are similar to one being done at the University of Illinois, where mothers-to-be provided blood and urine samples and then responded to a questionnaire when their children were about two and a half years old.
Both studies found that the children of women who had the highest levels of phthalates understood significantly fewer words and were considered language delayed.
“This measure turns out to be pretty predictive of later IQ, performance in school,” Dr. Swan explained.
These particular phthalates are not found in personal care products like cosmetics, but are in household items that end up in the air and dust which are then are ingested.
That’s what makes them almost impossible to avoid. They’re not in products that are meant to be used on the body or consumed, they don’t have to carry labels.
The study authors say the only way we might be able to get these particular phthalates out of the environment is through governmental action and regulation.