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Infants pick up toxic chemicals in intensive care

Neonatal intensive care units routinely save the lives of extremely premature and critically ill newborns. Many of these successes are made possible by tubing and other equipment rendered flexible with a plasticizer known as diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP). A new study finds that this equipment releases DEHP into the babies, though the impact on such children is still uncertain.

Everyone carries at least traces of phthalates, which are ubiquitous pollutants (SN: 2/22/03, p. 120: Available to subscribers at Proof of Burden). However, DEHP in neonates is a special concern because "it is a reproductive and developmental toxicant in laboratory animals," says study author Russ Hauser of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.

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