Common chemical found in plastic poses health risk for moms, babies: study

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A new study released by Columbia University finds that pregnant women should avoid phthalates, a common chemical used to make plastic pliable.

Dr. Ayanna Woltz, a New Jersey gynecologist, cautions her patients to check everything around them, even the air that they breathe because so many household items, such as air freshner, contain the chemical.

"When it comes to phthalate exposure, studies have shown that women, who are at the reproductive age, are the people with the highest amounts of phthalates in their blood stream," Woltz said.

Even cosmetics with phthalates as an ingredient are a major cause of exposure for women. The study found mothers with high exposure levels to the chemical were more likely to have children with asthma. The child has an almost 80 percent increased risk of developing the condition between the ages of 5 and 11, according to the findings.

"There's no way right now to be completely phthalate free, but there are ways to minimize exposure," Woltz said.

Suggestions in avoiding the dangerous chemical include using glass food containers, making sure baby bottles are phthalate or BPA free, avoiding the use of plastics in the microwaves and buying fragrance-free items whenever possible.

Animal studies show phthalates exposure can also affect the liver, kidneys and reproductive systems of developing organisms.

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