Common makeup and plastic chemical may fuel premature deaths

A chemical found in many consumer cosmetic and plastic products may be responsible for around 100,000 premature deaths in the US every year, according to a new study from NYU Langone Health. Phthalates, which are a group of plasticizers, can be found in many soaps, shampoos, hair spray products, nail polish, food packaging, and even plastic toys.

It has been well established that phthalates are hazardous to health due to their hormone-disrupting effects. Past research has linked the accumulation of these toxins with various health consequences, including everything ranging from obesity to heart disease.

The new NYU study found that many older adults in the US may die prematurely every year from health issues linked to phthalate exposure over time. The research involved around 5,000 older adults from ages 55 to 64, with the study finding that participants whose urine had the greatest phthalate concentrations were also more likely to die from heart disease.

As well, the researchers found that participants in the high exposure group had a greater any-cause death rate compared to the participants who had lower levels — though, the study notes, the association didn't hold when it came to cancer deaths.

The researchers say their study doesn't provide evidence of a direct cause-and-effect link between exposure to the chemicals and premature deaths. However, the findings do contribute to a growing body of evidence that chronic exposure to phthalates may come with a substantial public health cost, as well as healthcare burden and loss of productivity.