Study experts from ETH Zurich claim that phthalates appear to be exceptionally difficult to avoid even if one eats healthily. Phthalates, the softening agents in synthetic materials were noted to have been linked to abnormality in the male genitals, diabetes, premature births and excess weight. Also, they seem to be a hot topic among experts over the last decade.
Synthetic materials are known to be omnipresent in our everyday lives. However, in order to make them soft, flexible, durable and nicer, PVC is believed to be mixed with an organic compound made up of phthalate ester and alcohol also called as phthalates. PVC is also called as synthetically produced rubber. For instance, the synthetics industry utilizes nearly five million tons of these softeners annually. In addition, they could possibly be present in conventional flooring, cables and packaging materials as well as in medical products and cosmetics.
Since phthalates are everywhere, they may perhaps easily enter the food chain and the human body by means of food and drink. However, when and where this occurs could be difficult to discover and has hardly been studied.
“After all, often you don’t know where in the food chain the phthalates get into the food – whether they come from the bucket used to harvest olives, the conveyor belt, or elsewhere in the production chain,” says Michael Siegrist, a professor at the Institute of Environmental Decisions at ETH Zurich.
As a result, Siegrist organized a study at the Institute of Environmental Decisions in collaboration with the Institute of Chemistry and Bioengineering at ETH Zurich. The study was believed to have shown that sensible eating cannot actually prevent the intake of phthalates. In fact, consumers who eat naturally and healthily and try to keep the chemical additives in their food to a minimum may possibly be ingesting more phthalates on a daily basis in contrast to those who do not fret about their diet at all.
The study was aimed at evaluating consumers’ eating habits in order to show the extent to which they seemed to be exposed to phthalates. On the other hand, however, the scientists were believed to have examined the relationship between the consumers’ exposure and their interest in a natural and healthy diet.
Additionally, they analyzed the consumers’ risk perception of chemicals in food, such as with pesticides or phthalates. It was noted that, for the foremost time, the study experts thus recognized a link between consumer perception and physical reality with reference to the intake of food containing phthalates.
For the purpose of the study, the experts were believed to have asked nearly 1200 people in German-speaking Switzerland about their eating habits. Also, the participants were asked to provide information on their diet. Supposedly, the evaluation of the survey yielded four distinguishing groups namely, people who eat health-consciously and also rely on vitamin supplements in contrast to those who eat healthily and naturally. Furthermore, the two more groups included people who do not worry about their food and react passively and people who consume a particularly high amount of fatty and sugary food and ready-to-eat meals.
In order to calculate the phthalate amounts ingested by the participants in their food, the study experts appear to have used present records for food where the phthalate exposure had already been studied. The findings revealed that people who have a healthy and natural diet seemed to have ingested most of some phthalates, while those who behave more passively in their eating habits appear to be the least exposed to the pollutants.
In general, the results of the two nutritionally aware groups and the ‘fatty, sugary and ready-to-eat meals’ group appear to have been similar. However, it seems reassuring that the various tolerance levels issued by the European Food Safety Agency for different softening agents have failed to even come close to being reached in the study, keep away from exceeded.
Nonetheless, the experts acknowledge that the result should be taken with a considerable doubt as not all foods could perhaps be taken into consideration. In spite of everything, the result appears to be ironic and the study experts are also at a loss to explain why. Maria Dickson-Spillmann, Siegrist’s doctoral student and first author of the study elucidates that the matter still requires a lot of analysis.
“Our results show that even consumers who make a point of having a healthy and natural diet cannot escape chemical pollutants like phthalates. The findings underline the importance of food controls by cantonal laboratories,” continues Maria.
However, for example, it would be incorrect to advise consumers against fresh fruit and vegetables as this might lead to other health risks. Recently, various studies are noted to have suggested that phthalates act like hormones in humans. Especially deformities in the genital area in male offspring seem to have become apparent. However, additional but still debatable links to sterility and diabetes in men, premature births in pregnant women and premature breast development in girls were believed to have also been recognized.
Evidently, as a result, teething rings for babies without phthalates are now being promoted and the food industry is using rubber gloves and packaging materials which barely emit any phthalates or do not contain any at all. As believed, due to their omnipresence, it is highly unlikely that they could perhaps be eliminated from the food chain altogether.