Study Ties Chemicals in Beauty Products to Women's Diabetes Risk

FRIDAY July 13, 2012 -- Chemicals in beauty and personal care products may boost women's risk of diabetes, a new study suggests, although the authors cautioned that the finding is far from conclusive.

Researchers found that elevated concentrations of chemicals called phthalates in women's bodies are associated with an increased chance of developing diabetes. Phthalates are hormone-disrupting chemicals commonly used in products such as soaps, nail polishes, hair sprays, perfumes and moisturizers.

The chemicals are also used in a number of other consumer products, such as electronics, toys and adhesives.

In this study, researchers analyzed concentrations of phthalates in the urine of 2,350 women from across the United States. They found that women with the highest levels of mono-benzyl phthalate and mono-isobutyl phthalate were nearly twice as likely to develop diabetes as those with the lowest levels of the two chemicals.

Women with higher-than-average levels of mono-(3-carboxypropyl) phthalate had about a 60 percent increased risk of diabetes, and those with moderately high levels of the chemicals mono-n-butyl phthalate and di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate had about a 70 percent increased risk of diabetes.

The study, published online July 13 in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, was led by Tamarra James-Todd, a researcher in the division of women's health at Brigham and Women's Hospital, in Boston.

"This is an important first step in exploring the connection between phthalates and diabetes," James-Todd said in a hospital news release. "We know that in addition to being present in personal care products, phthalates also exist in certain types of medical devices and medication that is used to treat diabetes and this could also explain the higher level of phthalates in diabetic women. So overall, more research is needed."

The researchers also cautioned that the women in the study "self-reported" their diabetes, a less than ideal method of conducting research. And while the study found a potential connection between phthalates and diabetes in women, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

More information

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has more about phthalates and cosmetic products.

Posted: July 2012


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