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Phthalates, sometimes referred to as “everywhere compounds,” are ubiquitous environmental toxicants used in industrial, chemical, and commercial applications. Exposure to phthalates is associated with increased risk of adverse health effects, including a wide range of chronic disorders, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, melanoma, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Findings from a recent review suggest that phthalate exposure increases the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.

The many risks associated with phthalate exposure may be due to the compounds' effects as endocrine disruptors, which can mimic or impair the activity of the body’s natural hormones. Exposure to endocrine disruptors, even in small quantities, can have adverse effects on human development and physiology.

The authors of the review drew on data collected from more than 5,000 adult participants (aged 20 years and older) in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. They measured byproducts of phthalate metabolism in the participants' urine and tracked participants' death rates.

They found that participants who had the highest concentrations of high-molecular weight phthalate metabolites, especially di-2-ethylhexylphthalate, were nearly 50 percent more likely to die from all causes of premature death compared to those with the lowest concentrations. Those who had high urinary concentrations of another phthalate metabolite, mono-(2-ethyl-5-oxohexyl) phthalate, were 74 percent more likely to die from cardiovascular disease, compared to those with the lowest concentrations. The authors estimated that these compounds contribute to as many as 107,000 deaths per year and cost as much as $47.1 billion in lost productivity.

These findings suggest that phthalates increase the risk of premature death from all causes and cardiovascular diseases. Evidence indicates that the increased sweating that occurs during sauna use may help rid the body of phthalates. Learn more about the health effects of sauna use in this comprehensive open access review written by Dr. Rhonda Patrick.

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