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Consumer Product Safety

Thousands of chemicals are approved for use in U.S. consumer products but few have been tested for safety. Many every day consumer products, such as cosmetics, furniture, toys, and food packaging, contain chemicals with unknown toxicity. Biomonitoring of consumer product chemicals demonstrates widespread exposures in the United States. Yet, little is known about the health impacts of these chemicals. Of particular concern are exposures to pregnant women, infants, and children and the potential for early life chemical exposures to increase susceptibility to chronic health problems such as obesity.

In the Department of Environmental Health and Engineering, our research focuses on characterizing chemical exposures and health consequences to inform consumer product policies that protect human health for generations.

Research Highlight

Prenatal Phthalate Exposures Associated with Altered Risk of Childhood Obesity

Emerging evidence suggests that early life chemical exposures may play a role in the childhood obesity epidemic. Our study investigated the link between prenatal phthalate exposures and body mass index among 4-7 year old children by pooling data from three prospective birth cohorts. Phthalates are suspected obesogens with ubiquitous human exposures arising from contact with consumer products such as building materials, medical devices, pharmaceuticals, toys, food packaging, cosmetics, and fragrances. Research found that higher prenatal concentrations of mono-3-carboxypropyl phthalate were associated with increased risk of being overweight or obese in early childhood, whereas metabolites of two other phthalates were associated with lower body mass index in girls. Our study suggests that in utero phthalate exposures may permanently alter the metabolism of the developing fetus leading to changes in fat accumulation during early childhood.

Associated Faculty

 *Denotes faculty who are accepting PhD students.