Chemical Exposure and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), In Children

According to Thursday's study, children who are exposed to fragrances or cosmetic chemicals during pregnancy are at greater risk of developing behavioral issues similar to those in attention deficit disorder children.

Mount Sinai School of Medicine researchers found that children of mothers with high levels of phthalates were more likely than their parents to be exposed. They had lower scores in attention, aggression, conduct and other areas. According to the study, children with attention problems "clinically important" were 2.5 times as likely to be born to mothers who were high-exposure to phthalates. Children with ADHD and other disruptive behaviors disorders are more likely to exhibit the same types of behaviours. Stephanie Engel (a Mount Sinai associate professor in preventive medicine who was also the lead author of this study) stated, "More Phthalates equaled greater behavioral problems."

"For each increase in exposure, we observed an increase in the frequency and severity" The link was only found for the types phthalates used to make perfumes, shampoos nail polishes lotions deodorants hair sprays, and other personal care products. The phthalates found in vinyl toys or other soft materials did not cause behavioral reactions.

One year ago, a federal law banned phthalates from children's vinyl toys. There are currently no restrictions in the USA on phthalates being used in cosmetics or personal care products. However, they are banned from cosmetics made in Europe. The manufacturers claim the chemicals have been widely used over 50 years.

According to scientists, the new issue could have been linked to phthalates. It may affect a child’s brain development. Most research into phthalates was focused until now on how they can block or feminize men and cause reproductive problems.

Engel stated that "Clearly, environmental toxicants have a role to play in child neurodevelopment." He said that phthalates in particular had been poorly studied in this field. It is a "new area of concern," according to Dr. Philip Landrigan of Mount Sinai, a pediatrician and director at the Children's Environmental Health Center.

His statement was, "Clearly, it must be replicated as with any other study that is new, but the study itself has been very well done, and very credible."

According to the study, which was published online by Environmental Health Perspectives and is available online at the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. The research covered 188 children between 4 and 9. Many were born in East Harlem and the Upper East Side, while three quarters were poor. Scores were calculated based upon the responses of children to standard questions used by psychiatrists and other practitioners to diagnose attention deficit disorder.

They answered 130 questions that were designed to help detect problems behaviors. The questions ranged from "never" up to "almost constantly" as well as 86 questions for another cognitive test, which measures memory and cognitive function. Engel explained that although some of the effects were greater in boys than they were in girls, there were significant associations with the chemicals in the case for the girls. To evaluate children, the researchers didn't consult any doctors. Instead, findings were made based on mothers' assessments. Engel stated that a parent's assessment of a child's behavior can be subjective. Engel said that mother's have been shown to be extremely accurate when assessing bad conduct, aggression, and attention issues. The most critical time to monitor a child’s brain development is during pregnancy.

Korean researchers published a study last year that linked ADHD to childhood exposure to Phthalates. Shanna Swan from the University of Rochester, an epidemiologist, linked phthalates and feminized testicles in baby boys. Her research found that phthalates are a complex picture, with many possible effects. Engel and her group found many "negative associations" between phthalates low in molecular mass, which are the ones that are used in personal-care products. She stated she thought it was interesting. Swan was shocked to find that the majority of effects were associated with MMP, the phthalate metabolite found in low levels in human beings. Swan, the Center for Reproductive Epidemiology of University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, said: "It's not a toxic metabolite."

Researchers said that they don't know why prenatal exposure may cause behavioral issues. The researchers speculate it could be due to the chemical disrupting thyroid hormones that are crucial for brain development in infants. The Mount Sinai team published April's findings on the effects of phthalates in infants. In a study published in Neurotoxicology and published in Neurotoxicology, it was found that infants exposed to high amounts of phthalates in their mothers had different levels of alertness in girls than in boys.

This new research suggests that phthalates or other hormone-disrupting chemical could have played a role in the rising incidence of attention deficit disorders in children. The use of phthalates has been known for around 50 years. It's not clear if the amount of exposure has changed. Engel explained that "the percentage of children with behavioral issues has increased over time, and it's unclear why." "It would be a stretch to attribute it all to endocrine disruptors. Many possible causes are involved. Nearly everyone tested had some traces of Phthalates in their body. It's most common for women to be exposed. Engel explained that "there is enough evidence for concern regarding phthalates" and that it was prudent to lower exposure to as many as possible. Engel stated that phthalates are "so widespread right now, it's difficult to eliminate exposure without regulation action." Engel suggested people "press legislators to limit phthalates from personal care products for children and adults. Fetuses are "uniquely vulnerable, particularly for endocrine disruptors," she said. But we also worry about post-natal exposure. The kids continue to be exposed as they grow up." Consumers who want to learn more about the ingredients of their brands of cosmetics can use a database compiled by the Environmental Working Group at

But manufacturers may not always include phthalates on the labels. Because they retain scents and allow lotions to penetrate skin, phthalates are commonly used in cosmetics. Phthalates were used in nail polish to improve flexibility and durability. Many manufacturers of nail polish have eliminated them. Mary Wolff (director of Mount Sinai's Center for Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research), was the principal author. A team that included researchers from both the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a Cornell University scientist was also involved.