Household exposure to synthetic chemicals commonly used in plastics and other products appears to increase a person's risk of developing allergies. At least two such chemicals, called phthalates, are more abundant in dust from homes where children have allergy-related illnesses than in dust from the homes of symptomfree children, a Scandinavian study has found.
Phthalates are ingredients in soft plastics, such as those used to make vinyl flooring. They're also used as softening agents in cosmetics and plastic toys.
To determine whether high concentrations of phthalates in dust correlate with allergies, Carl-Gustaf Bornehag of Karlstad University in Sweden and his colleagues visited the homes of 400 Swedish children. About half the kids had at least two of the following conditions: asthma, eczema, and rhinitis, which is an inflammation of the nose's mucous membrane. The other children selected for the study had none of these.