A chemical used to soften plastics and that has been suspected of disrupting development showed no long-term effects in a small study of teens. As newborns, the young people had each received intensive medical care that used plastic tubing and bags bearing the chemical. If more-comprehensive studies support the new finding, the chemical, di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP), may be deemed harmless to newborns.
DEHP and some other phthalates can leach from plastics. In animal studies, DEHP exposure during development causes reproductive abnormalities, such as undersize and malformed testes.
Since DEHP is used widely in hospital equipment, toxicologists have pegged phthalate as a possible danger to fetuses and infants (SN: 9/2/00, p. 152: New Concerns about Phthalates).