New York: New research suggests that exposure to chemicals found in shampoos and toys during early childhood may seriously damage the mental development of youngsters.
Girls with high concentrations of certain chemicals, known as phthalates, in their blood have lower levels of a thyroid hormone, a study found.
Study Author Pam Factor-Litvak of Columbia University, said: ‘The thyroid acts as the master controller of brain development.
‘Thyroid hormones set the schedule, and if the timing is out of synch, there may be later consequences in the brain.’
Previous research suggests up to 70 percent of the products we apply to our skin gets absorbed into our bloodstream, with our scalps having one of the highest absorption rates of anywhere on our bodies.
Phthalates are thought to mimic hormones, particularly estrogen, leading to hormonal disruption driven disorders.
Researchers at Columbia University assessed the link between phthalate exposure and thyroid function in children over time.
They measured five phthalates, and two thyroid hormones from 229 pregnant women and 229 three-year-olds enrolled in the Mothers and New-borns Study at the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health.
Results, published in the journal Environment International, revealed girls with lower levels of a thyroid hormone, known as FT4, had higher amounts of four common phthalates in their blood, Mail Online Health News reported.
Pam Factor-Litvak said: ‘The thyroid acts as the master controller of brain development.
‘Thyroid hormones set the schedule, and if the timing is out of synch, there may be later consequences in the brain.
‘The thyroid disruptions we see in this study, although they fall within the normal range, could explain some of the cognitive problems we see in children exposed to phthalates and we are currently investigating that.
‘As we know from lead, even small exposures can make a big difference.
‘Parents with young children should avoid using products containing phthalates such as shampoos, nail polish, and vinyl flooring,’
In the study, thyroid disturbances did not occur to the same extent in boys, which may be due to past research that suggests phthalates mimic estrogen in particular.
Previous studies have shown phthalate exposure in pregnancy is associated with a lower IQ, asthma and mental and motor development problems in young children.