Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Are Plastics Turning Boys Into Girls?

Ok, that might be a bit inflammatory. But the recent news that in-utero exposure to phthalates affects boys' play preferences in preschool is big news all the same.

The study tracked 145 pregnant women and, ultimately, their sons. Researchers measured the phthalate content of the mothers' urine and then later asked the mothers questions about their sons' play behavior between the ages of three and six. The findings? The boys whose mothers were exposed to the highest levels of phthalates were five times more likely to have a less-masculine play score.

Before you get all up in arms about "male" or "female" play, consider your own sons. I'm guessing that most of them showed a proclivity for guns long before you introduced weapons to your home. I'm guessing that most of them made truck noises well before their second birthday.

The scientific truth is that male and female brains are different -- and boy brains are wired to show a preference for motion (trucks) over faces (dolls). Researchers speculate that phthalates not only alter the development male reproductive system but the male brain as well.

Pretty scary stuff, especially when you consider this.

I've never really given much thought to phthalates, despite the negative headlines, simply because I don't have the time to worry about everything. But given this latest study, I think it might make sense to decrease our exposure. Step number one? Changing our shower curtain.

Are you concerned about phthalate exposure? What steps, if any, are you taking to decrease your sons' exposure to toxic chemicals?


  1. I think you should read what Forbes says ( and the UK National Health Service( before rushing out and wasting your money on new shower curtains.

  2. Anonymous,
    Both of those links just took me to the tiny url page. Can you resend the links?