Phthalates may soften, weaken bones.

Jun 03, 2009

Sabbieti, MG, D Agas, G Santoni, S Materazzi, G Menghi and L Marchetti. 2009. Involvement of p53 in phthalate effects on mouse and rat osteoblasts. Journal of Cellular Biochemistry 107:316-327.


Phthalates used in plastics and beauty products can trigger bone cell death, finds this animal study.

Phthalates provoke DNA damage that can lead to bone cell death, according to new research  on mouse cells.

According to the researchers, "chronic exposure to phthalates at low concentrations could probably affect new bone formation and matrix deposition with clinical implications on bone homeostasis and mineral density.'

This study shows how a low-dose exposure to two types of commonly found phthalates has a profound effect on bone cells. Based on the results, long-term exposure to phthalates could have devastating effects on developing bones in young bodies and accelerate deterioration in aging bones.

Estrogen deficiency is responsible for a number of bone diseases such as osteoporosis. For this reason, many are concerned about the effects of phthalate exposure on bone health.

Prior studies by the same research group found that phthalates can enter, accumulate and alter cell division functions involved in bone cells called osteoblasts. Osteoblasts mineralize bones. Without them, bones stop regenerating and become soft. Ironically, this is the same reason phthalates are added to plastic.

In this next step, the authors isolated bone cells from newborn mice and exposed them to very low levels of two common types of phthalates (BBP and DBP). The state of health and growth of cells were monitored closely by measuring specific markers for DNA and cell damage.

Twenty four hours after exposure, scientists observed an increase in the signals that promote apoptosis, or programmed cell death, in the osteoblasts.

Phthalate use is widespread. Phthalates are commonly found in household items made of plastics and in health and beauty products.  Some products with phthalates include toys, vinyl flooring, plastic medical tubing, shower curtains and personal care products such as shampoo, hair sprays and detergents.