(CNN)Synthetic chemicals called phthalates are damaging children's brain development and therefore must be immediately banned from consumer products, according to a group of scientists and health professionals from Project TENDR.
Chemicals in plastics damage babies' brains and must be banned immediately, expert group says
Project TENDR, which stands for Targeting Environmental Neuro-Development Risks, is a group of volunteer scientists, health professionals and child advocates working to study and reduce children's exposure to neurotoxic chemicals and pollutants.
"What we want to accomplish is to move the public health community, including regulators, toward this goal of elimination of phthalates," said lead author Stephanie Engel.
"We have enough evidence right now to be concerned about the impact of these chemicals on a child's risk of attention, learning and behavioral disorders," said Engel, a professor of epidemiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health.
"I hope that this paper will act as a wake-up call to understand that early life exposure to this class of chemicals is affecting our children," said toxicologist Linda Birnbaum, former director of the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences, as well as the National Toxicology Program. She was not involved in the paper.
"When you have the same kind of findings repeated in multiple populations, done by different investigators using different tools and approaches and you keep coming up with the same finding, I think you can begin to say that the data is pretty clear," Birnbaum said.
CNN reached out for comment from the trade association American Chemistry Council.
"While we are encouraged by continuous research efforts into the science and health of phthalates, we are concerned about the over interpretation of studies that have not established a causal link between phthalates and human adverse health effects," said Eileen Conneely, senior director of the chemical products and technology division of ACC.
Called "everywhere chemicals" because they are so common, phthalates are added to consumer products to make the plastic more flexible and harder to break.
Phthalates are found in hundreds of auto, home, food and personal care items: food packaging; detergents; vinyl flooring, clothing, furniture and shower curtains; automotive plastics; lubricating oils and adhesives; rain and stain-resistant products; and scores of products including shampoo, soap, hair spray and nail polish, in which they make fragrances last longer.
Phthalates must be listed among the ingredients on product labels, unless they are added as a part of the scent. Under current US Food and Drug Administration regulations, phthalates can be simply labeled "fragrance," even though they could be as much as 20% of the product, studies say.
Phthalates are also in PVC plumbing and building products and items such as medical tubing, garden hoses, and some children's toys. Globally, approximately 8.4 million metric tonnes of phlathates and other plasticizers are consumed annually, according to European Plasticizers, an industry trade association.
Studies have connected phthalates to childhood obesity, asthma, cardiovascular issues, cancer and reproductive problems such as genital malformations and undescended testes in baby boys and low sperm counts and testosterone levels in adult males.