A new study of expectant mothers suggests that a group of common environmental contaminants called phthalates, which are present in many industrial and consumer products including everyday personal care items, may contribute to the country's alarming rise in premature births.
... women who deliver prematurely have, on average, up to three times the phthalate level in their urine compared to women who carry to term.
... Premature birth is a significant risk factor for many health problems in childhood that can persist into adulthood ... In the United States, premature births have increased by more than 30 percent since 1981 and by 18 percent since 1990. In 2004, premature births accounted for 12.8 percent of live births nationwide.
Premature births ... account for one-third of infant deaths in the United States, making it the leading cause of neonatal mortality. Being born too early can also lead to chronic health problems such as blindness, deafness, cerebral palsy, low IQ and more.
Phthalates are commonly used compounds in plastics, personal care products, home furnishings (vinyl flooring, carpeting, paints, etc.) and many other consumer and industrial products ... past studies show that several phthalates cause reproductive and developmental toxicity in animals.