In the first study to explore phthalate exposure among Australians, completing FFCMH PhD student, Peter Bai, and Supervisors Dr Zumin Shi, Prof Gary Wittert and Prof Anne Taylor have found that phthalates are ubiquitous. Based on blood sampling and comprehensive surveys of a large cohort of South Australian men (MAILES), they also determined that dietary intake is a major route of phthalate exposure, with carbonated soft drink being an important contributor. Those men with a higher consumption of fatty foods are more likely to have a high concentration of phthalates in the body.
Phthalates are a family of organic chemicals produced from oil and are used as “plasticisers”. For soft-drink bottles, phthalates are added to the plastic to make it soft and flexible. The use of some phthalates have been banned in Europe and in the United States, and in Australia, products that contain DEHP, one type of phthalate, have been banned. According to a report by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission in July 2014, animal studies suggest an effect on the developing male reproductive tract (a syndrome indicative of androgen deficiency) when pregnant dams are exposed to phthalates and developmental toxicity in exposed male rodents. There is limited human studies suggesting that adult phthalate exposure may be associated with poor sperm quality.
Further research is needed to explore the relationships between total phthalate exposure and health risks such as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Adopting a healthy lifestyle eliminating high sugar, carbonated drinks and a low fat diet is one way to reduce levels of pthalates.