A recent study from Sweden’s Uppsala University claims that exposure to chemicals known as phthalates, which are found in soaps, lotions, plastics, and toys, may contribute to the development of diabetes in the elderly. P. Monica Lind, et al., “Circulating Levels of Phthalate Metabolites Are Associated with Prevalent Diabetes in the Elderly,” Diabetes Care, April 12, 2012. Researchers collected data on more than 1,000 70-year-old Swedish men and women who took part in the Prospective Investigation of the Vasculature in Uppsala Seniors.

Researchers measured the participants’ blood sugar, insulin and toxin levels from the breakdown of phthalates. Of the participants, 114 subjects developed diabetes. The data showed that several phthalate metabolites are related to diabetes prevalence and are markers of insulin secretion and resistance. For those with high phthalate levels, the risk of developing diabetes was double compared to those with lower levels.  

The study notes that U.S. companies are not required to test long-term health effects of chemicals before using them in consumer products and, therefore, the dangers of hazardous chemicals are not known until they are already widely used. The study recommends that health effects of chemicals in consumer products be tested before they reach the consumer market.