ISLAMABAD: They demonstrated a link between higher levels of these chemicals in urine and increases in cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and hypertension in men.

Plastics are all around us. They are used in everything from tents to trains and are often part of the packaging that surrounds our food and drink products.A study published this week in the journal Environmental Research takes a fresh look at the links between phthalates and long-term health. The researchers involved are based at the University of Adelaide and the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute. The team was headed up by associate professor Zumin Shi, from the University of Adelaide's Medical School.

This matches up with previous work showing that increasing age and Western diets are associated with higher concentrations of phthalates. Earlier studies have also shown that phthalate levels are higher in men who consume more packaged and processed foods, more carbonated soft drinks, and less fresh fruits and vegetables.
Levels of the chemicals in each individual were then matched up with chronic diseases.

"We found that the prevalence of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure increased among those men with higher total phthalate levels."

"While we still don't understand the exact reasons why phthalates are independently linked to disease, we do know the chemicals impact on the human endocrine system, which controls hormone release that regulate[s] the body's growth, metabolism, and sexual development and function."

Alongside the connection between elevated phthalate levels and chronic disease, the team also found that higher levels are associated with an increase in inflammatory biomarkers. This backs up other work demonstrating the pro-inflammatory effects of phthalates.

Chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, are often referred to as lifestyle diseases. This is because lifestyle factors, such as inactivity, diet, and smoking, play a significant role in their development.

However, over recent years, there has been interest in examining other potential environmental factors that might be at work, and phthalate ingestion is one such factor.

Although the study leaves us with more questions than answers, Prof. Shi gives some sound advice, saying, "While further research is required, reducing environmental phthalates exposure where possible, along with the adoption of healthier lifestyles, may help to reduce the risk of chronic disease."