In their article “Urinary phthalates are associated with higher blood pressure in childhood”, US medical scientists report an observed link between diethylhexylphthalate (DEHP) and increased blood pressure in children aged 8 – 19 years (Trasande et al. 2013). The article was published online May 24, 2013 in the peer-reviewed Journal of Pediatrics. Data of urinary phthalate metabolite levels and blood pressure in children were compiled in the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), a large and representative biomonitoring study.
In their article, Leonard Trasande from New York University School of Medicine and colleagues argue that high blood pressure in children is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease later in life. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cardiovascular disease is the major cause of death worldwide: in 2008, around 30% of global deaths were due to cardiovascular disease (WHO 2013). The newly published study argues that exposures to environmental chemicals like phthalates “are amenable to regulatory and other interventions, unlike” other risk factors for high blood pressure (like diet, or lack of exercise).
The exact mechanism whereby DEHP is linked to high blood pressure remains unclear. One hypothesis is that phthalates may cause oxidative stress leading to kidney damage. Further longitudinal studies are required to elucidate the exact mechanisms. The authors consider reverse causation unlikely.
DEHP has been found to migrate from food contact materials. It has been used as plasticizer in food contact polyvinylchloride (PVC), is applied in adhesives and printing inks, and also as processing aid in plastics. Food contact materials are assumed to be the major source of DEHP human exposure.
Trasande, L., et al. “Urinary Phthalates Are Associated with Higher Blood Pressure in Childhood.” The Journal of Pediatrics. (online 24 May 2013).
Phthalates. Food Packaging Forum background information. 4 October 2013.