Poisoned by every day life: Landmark study warns gender bending chemicals in your home, food and car ARE linked to a huge range of diseases

  • Phthalates is used to soften plastic and improve consistency of cosmetics
  • Chemical commonly found in children's toys, make up, cars and PVC flooring
  • Could cause breast cancer, asthma, infertility and birth defects, WHO says
By Fiona Macrae

Possible danger: Chemical phthalates is used to soften plastics and can be found in children's toys
Possible danger: Chemical phthalates is used to soften plastics and can be found in children's toys
Chemicals found in every home may cause breast cancer, asthma, infertility and birth defects, global health chiefs said yesterday.
They warn the gender-bending compounds – used in toys, PVC flooring, car dashboards and credit cards – have ‘serious implications’ for health.
In a landmark report, the World Health Organisation suggested a ban might be needed to protect future generations.
It says it is ‘reasonable to suspect’ chemical substances called phthalates of harming female fertility and linked them with rising rates of childhood illnesses including leukaemia.
Also under suspicion is bisphenol A, which is found in a host of daily items including tin cans and sunglasses.
The man-made compounds are thought to interfere with the natural hormones that are key to our growth, development and overall health.
The WHO said there was ‘very strong evidence’ in animals they can interfere with thyroid hormones – something that can cause brain damage, stunted intelligence, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism.
For prostate cancer ‘significant evidence’ exists of a link with agricultural pesticides.
And there was some evidence linking exposure in pregnancy to weight gain in infants and children and potential links to breast cancer.
In the same report ten years ago, the UN agency said there was only ‘weak evidence ’ that gender-bending chemicals were harming human health.
Declaring the chemicals a global threat, the new report’s authors said humans and animals were exposed to hundreds of compounds, many of which have yet to be identified or properly studied.
Some are inhaled in dust, others make their way into our bodies from food or simply licking our fingers.

The WHO stops short of saying the chemicals actually caused the illnesses but did say that in some cases, the evidence was very strong.
The report – State of the Science of Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals – is the most comprehensive of its kind because rather than focusing on one chemical or one illness, it evaluates all the evidence.
It says: ‘The diverse systems affected by endocrine-disrupting chemicals likely include all hormonal systems and range from those controlling development and function of reproductive organs to the tissues and organs regulating metabolism and satiety.
‘Effects on these systems can lead to obesity, infertility or reduced fertility, learning and memory difficulties, adult-onset diabetes or cardiovascular disease, as well as a variety of other diseases.’
Report: The compounds, also found in PVC floors, can have 'serious implications' the World Health Organisation warned
Report: The compounds, also found in PVC floors, can have 'serious implications' the World Health Organisation warned
Credit cards
Used in car dashboards
Daily risks: The dangerous chemical is found in many objects we touch with out bare hand every day, such as credit cards and car dashboards
Worryingly, it warns the chemicals assessed so far by scientists may only be the ‘tip of the iceberg’ – and there could be many other potentially harmful compounds out there.
It cautions that the key role of hormones in the development of tissues and organs means that unborn babies and young children may be particularly vulnerable.
The report – written over two years by international experts who collated and weighted scientific studies on the topic – also states the rise in some conditions is too rapid to be blamed on genes alone.
‘The prevalence of paediatric asthma has more than doubled over the past 20 years and is now the leading cause of child hospitalisations and school absenteeism,’ it said. ‘Certain birth defects, such as those of the male reproductive organs are on the rise. The incidence of paediatric leukaemia and brain cancer have risen, as has the incidence of testicular cancer. These are stark health statistics.’
The WHO says wildlife is also at risk and calls for much more research into the chemicals and their effects – and says that there may be a case for banning or restricting them.
The chemicals and their effects
Dr Maria Neira, the WHO’s director for public health and environment, said: ‘The latest science shows that communities around the globe are being exposed to endocrine-disrupting chemicals and their associated risks. We all have a responsibility to protect future generations.’
Elizabeth Salter Green, of the campaign group CHEM Trust, said the EU was trying to tighten up the regulation of gender-bending chemicals but the UK was in favour of the least stringent measures.
She added: ‘This report bears testimony to the on-going failure of regulatory agencies to reduce exposure to hormone disrupting chemicals, which are implicated in the increased rates of hormone-related cancers and other diseases.
‘Thankfully, the EU is now trying to come to agreement on how to identify such hormone disrupting chemicals, so that they can be effectively regulated, but unfortunately the UK is trying to thwart this process in a bid to limit the number of chemicals that will fall under the regulatory axe.’
The Chemical Industries Association said it was important to note that naturally-occurring substances in beer, chocolate and coffee can have more powerful effects on the body’s hormones than man-made chemicals.