Chemical Exposure Linked to Childhood Obesity

May 11, 2009

By Rochelle Davis, Founding Executive Director

I read with interest an article in The New York Times about a new study which links childhood obesity to exposure of phthalates, chemicals which are used to make plastics pliable and in personal care products.  Phthalates are known endocrine disrupters (they affect glands and hormones that regulate many bodily functions) and a possible carcinogen.  In a past life, I was involved in efforts to eliminate phthalates from children’s toys and other products.  This concern about environmental exposures was one of the reasons why I started Healthy Schools Campaign.  
 
One of the most interesting aspects of this to me is that the line between two of the issues we work on, the environment and obesity, is becoming more and more fuzzy. We need to look at school siting to address toxic exposures as well as walkable communities. Phthalates are a significant environmental exposure that may be contributing to the obesity crisis. Obesity seems to worsen asthma.
 
And the more we learn, the more we need to come back to the basics — healthy eating, exercise, clean air, clean water.
 
In the meantime, we hope the research connecting phthalates to obesity becomes more clear. But since exposure to phthalates isn’t going away any time soon, let’s continue to ensure access to healthy food and physical activity for all kids.