In a study of 300 inner-city women and their children, ages 5-11, researchers have apparently observed a “significant association” between concentrations of phthalate metabolites in maternal urine collected during the third trimester of pregnancy and a diagnosis of current asthma among children participating in a study cohort. Robin M. Whyatt, et al., “Asthma in Inner-City Children at 5-11 Years of Age and Prenatal Exposure to Phthalates: The Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health Cohort,” Environmental Health Perspectives, September 17, 2014.

While the researchers call for additional studies to replicate their findings, they found that prenatal metabolites of butylbenzyl phthalate (BB zP) and di-n-butyl phthalate (DnBP ) were “associated with a history [of ] asthma-like symptoms (p<0.05) and with the diagnosis of current asthma: RR 1.17 (95% CI: 1.01, 1.35) and RR 1.25 (95% CI 1.04, 1.51) per natural log-unit increase respectively.” They also found that “[r]isk of current asthma was >70% higher among children with maternal prenatal BB zP and DnBP metabolite concentrations in the 3rd versus 1st tertile.”

The Cosmetics, Toiletry & Perfumery Association (CTPA ) responded to the study by distinguishing the phthalates used in cosmetic products from those associated with asthma, noting that “the two phthalates under scrutiny in the study are banned from cosmetic products in Europe.” CTPA also observes that the study authors “state that no association was found between the prenatal exposure of several other phthalates and diagnosis of childhood asthma.” In light of the demonstrated safety of the phthalates used in cosmetic products, CTPA suggests that pregnant women need not worry about the study’s findings. See CTPA News Release, September 17, 2014.