PVC and Phthalates Linked to Respiratory Illness
January 29, 2009
A recent review in Environmental Health Perspectives of 41 scientific papers found sparse but suggestive evidence for a connection between phthalate exposure and asthma and allergies. The reviewers examined evidence that phthalates, commonly used as plasticizers in polyvinyl chloride (PVC) products, increase the risk of asthma and allergies and that common ambient phthalate levels are sufficient to cause harm.
Experiments with mice have shown that phthalates can exacerbate allergic responses, and epidemiological studies of children have shown a correlation between exposure to PVC indoors and the incidence of asthma and allergies. There is also evidence that occupational exposure to heated phthalates increases the risk of asthma. But one human experiment found no bronchial reactivity to PVC.
Most people are exposed to phthalates through dietary sources; other sources of exposure are consumer goods, medical procedures, household dust, and, more rarely, fumes from heated or burned PVC. Understanding of phthalate emissions from PVC interior surfaces, such as floor tiles, is weak, but heating or exposure to moisture increases the migration of phthalates into air and dust, and there is some evidence linking such interior surfaces to respiratory problems.