A University of Rochester pilot-study reveals exposure of two common phthalates (chemicals found in plastics) while in the womb can be linked to boys playing with more girly toys in preschool, read a press release today. The study only looked at 145 preschool children, but the press release reads that "when the concentrations of two common phthalates in mothers’ prenatal urine are elevated their sons are less likely to play with male-typical toys and games, such as trucks and play fighting."
While phthalates are generally chemicals used to soften plastics, some recent studies have shown that a major source of human exposure to the two phthalates in this study (and those of the most concern) are entering our bodies from food. These phthalates, DEHP and DBP, are used primarily in polyvinyl chloride which were once found in plastic wrap like Saran Wrap and plastic water bottles is no longer found, according to NIH, in "any other type of plastic food packaging sold in the United States." Which is confusing because accoridng to this study, pregnant women packaging, storing, or heating food with any PVC-containing products can introduce them these phthalates into her unborn baby's system and therefore cause her baby boy(s) to become more girly in their toy-choosing later in life. So how are they getting them into their system if not through food packaging materials? Sadly, I don't have the answers to this.
Could drinking out of a plastic bottle while preggers make your baby boy a sissy? Not likely.
“Our results need to be confirmed, but are intriguing on several fronts,” Shanna H. Swan, Ph.D., professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and director of the URMC Center for Reproductive Epidemiology, said in a statement released earlier today. “Not only are they consistent with our prior findings that link phthalates to altered male genital development, but they also are compatible with current knowledge about how hormones mold sex differences in the brain, and thus behavior. We have more work to do, but the implications are potentially profound.”
So while a lot of work still needs to be done to definitively say DEHP and DBP are creating sissy boys, we pregger women should stay on alert.
Correction: In an earlier version of this blog post, the author erroneously reported that plastic wrap, notably Saran Wrap, contains PVC, in fact it does not contain PVC materials any longer.