Link between a Group of Common Chemicals and Preterm Births in Puerto Rico Examined by Researchers
In the 2018 Premature Birth Report Card from the March of Dimes, Puerto Rico received a D grade from the nonprofit organization. That year, the preterm birth rate in Puerto Rico was listed at 11.4%, slightly lower than the 11.5% posted for 2016, but still higher than the national average and the March of Dimes' goal of 8.1% by 2020.
A new study, discussed in the University of Michigan's Global Michigan portal for international engagement, may shed some light on one of the reasons premature birth rates are higher in Puerto Rico. According to the article, a local professor and his colleagues from other research universities have found a possible association between higher urinary concentrations of phthalate metabolites in pregnant women from Puerto Rico and increased odds of a having a premature birth as compared to other pregnant women with lower phthalate metabolite concentrations.
Phthalates are a group of chemicals used to soften and increase the flexibility of plastics and vinyl. Many phthalates are suspected endocrine disruptors and these chemicals are used in many different products, industrial applications and can even be found at a number of Superfund sites.
Products that may contain phthalates include some cosmetics and personal care products, including perfumes, hair spray, soap, shampoo, nail polishes and skin moisturizers. They are also used in many flexible plastic and vinyl toys, shower curtains, wallpaper, vinyl mini blinds, food packaging and plastic wraps. Phthalates can even be found in some wood finishes, detergents, adhesives, plastic plumbing pipes, lubricants, medical tubing and fluid bags, solvents, insecticides, medical devices, building materials and vinyl flooring.
This study was part of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences' (NIEHS) Puerto Rico Testsite for Exploring Contamination Threats (PROTECT) project, which has been providing valuable insight about phthalate exposure risks on the islands for years. These recent study results, along with previous PROTECT findings, indicate that many women in Puerto Rico appear to have higher phthalate exposures than women in the general U.S. population. Pregnant women and others can be exposed to these chemicals at home or in the work environment through air, dust, water or food. The only way to know is through testing. Zimmetry Environmental offers testing and consulting services to identify phthalates and other known endocrine disruptors from indoor and other environmental samples. If exposure risks are found, there are steps that can be taken to eliminate or mitigate these hazards.
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