Scientists at Northwestern University said they found a connection between women suffering from uterine fibroids tumors and everyday consumer products that use environmental phthalates. Photo courtesy of Northwestern University
Nov. 14 (UPI) -- A new scientific study released Monday connects an increase in women suffering from uterine fibroids and everyday consumer products that use environmental phthalates.
The study by scientists at Northwestern Medicine, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, said uterine fibroids are the most common tumors among women. Today, up to 80% of all women may develop a fibroid tumor during their lifetime.
Tumors can lead to uncontrolled bleeding, anemia, miscarriages and infertility among women. Environmental phthalates can be found in shower curtains, car upholstery, lunchboxes, shoes, food and other common items.
"These toxic pollutants are everywhere, including food packaging, hair and makeup products, and more, and their usage is not banned," corresponding study author Serdar Bulun, chair of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University, said in a statement.
"These are more than simply environmental pollutants. They can cause specific harm to human tissues."
The study found women with high exposure to certain phthalates such as DEHP [Di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate] -- used as a plasticizer to increase the durability of products such as shower curtains, car upholstery, lunchboxes and more -- have a high risk for having a symptomatic fibroid.
DEHP has been the most widely used phthalate. Although there have been some regulatory restrictions placed on them in European Union countries, it is still widely used for the packaging of food and health products in the United States.
"Interestingly, [environmentally responsive receptor] was cloned in the early '90s as the receptor for dioxin, the key toxin in the agent orange," Bulun said.
"The use of agent orange during the Vietnam war caused significant reproductive abnormalities in the exposed populations, and dioxin and [environmentally responsive receptor] were thought to be responsible for this."