Video of the Week: Study Says Pthalates Reduce IQ

A chemical commonly found in food and household products—called phthalates—has been linked to lower IQ in kids exposed to high levels during pregnancy, according to a new study from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.

While previous research has linked higher exposure to phthalates—also known as “hormone disruptors” or “endocrine disruptors”—to poor mental and motor development in preschoolers, this new study is the first to reveal a disturbing link between prenatal exposure to the chemicals and childhood development.

Researchers studied exposure to five types of phthalates, including those found in shower curtains, raincoats, hairspray, food wraps, vinyl and pill coating, and seafood—possibly the largest source of exposure. Phtalates are added to plastics to help make them flexible. This chemical is also used in makeup, nail polish, and lacquer. Today, phthalates are banned from use in children’s toys and child-care products, but they are still present in numerous other products that do not list them as an ingredient.

The big finding with the new research? It linked prenatal exposure to phthalates to a more than six-point drop in IQ score as compared with those kids who had less exposure.

The study, “Persistent Associations between Maternal Prenatal Exposure to Phthalates on Child IQ at Age 7 Years,” was published this week in the journal PLOS One.

“The magnitude of these IQ differences is troubling,” one of the study’s authors, Robin Whyatt, said in a press release. “A six- or seven-point decline in IQ may have substantial consequences for academic achievement and occupational potential.”

Learn more about the study—and how to avoid phtalates—by watching this report.


Erinn Morgan


After a 10-year career as an award-winning New York City-based editor launching and redesigning urban, style-driven magazines, Erinn Morgan left downtown Manhattan after September 11th, 2001, in search of a less encumbered, freelance lifestyle. A two-year-long trek around the country eventually landed her in Durango, Colo., which she now calls home.

Her writing has appeared in numerous publications, including The New York Times, Outside, National Geographic Adventure, Bike, Skiing, Delicious Living, American Cowboy, and on

Erinn is also the author of the eco-focused book, Picture Yourself Going Green, Step-by-Step Instruction for Living a Budget-Conscious, Earth-Friendly Lifestyle in Eight Weeks or Less.

She was previously the editor-in-chief of 20/20 magazine, a special projects editor at Playboy (overseeing the launch of a new, custom magazine), and the founding editor/editor-in-chief of SoHo Style, a much-lauded, avant-garde magazine that covered the culture and style of downtown New York and its reach around the world.

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