Is That Prescription Giving You Breasts?


phthalates in meds

fotorealis/Dollar Photo Club

Phthalates. Luckily, it took me less time to realize how bad they for our health then it did to learn how to spell the word.

It has been clear that phthalates play a role in infertility, preterm birth, birth defects (they have a feminizing effect on the developing baby), hormonal cancers like breast and endometrial, obesity and testosterone issues in men.  And I’m sure the list of damaging effects is much larger than we are aware of.  Any way you slice it, they are not good for you.

The scary part is that these chemicals are pretty much everywhere you turn.  In many studies every single person studied had phthalates present in his or her bloodstream.  But if you can’t avoid these chemicals entirely, at least you can be aware of where they are hiding and do your best to reduce your exposure.  The main reason they are found everywhere in today’s society is because they are used in the manufacture of so many products you use on a daily basis such as:

  • Anything with hat “new vinyl” smell
  • New cars (we keep the windows cracked while driving any new car in our family for months)
  • New flooring (vinyl tile and carpeting)
  • Food packaging
  • Latex adhesives
  • Nail polish
  • Even scarier, identified phthalates in a large number of makeup products as well as fragrances (you know–that stuff found in EVERYTHING…).

Just in case this list is not comprehensive enough, I bring you this particular study.  In it, researchers looked at a not-too-often considered exposure to these chemcial compounds.

The polymer coating around many prescription drugs.

Yep.  Just in case the actual ingredients inside the capsule weren’t toxic enough, the drug companies have to wrap them up in phthalate-containing polymers just to make darn sure you don’t escape from any chronic disease you might otherwise avoid.  To see just how strong this exposure could be, researchers looked at the urinary concentrations of phthalate compounds in 7,999 patients who used certain drugs known to contain phthalates in the coating.  Here’s what they found:

  • Mesalamine formulations (used to treat ulcerative colitis; these drugs may contain dibutyl phthalate-DBP-to provide an extended release formula) users had urinary levels of phthalate compounds that were FIFTY times higher than non-users.
  • Didanosine (an HIV anti-viral medication) users had higher urine levels.
  • Omeprazole (that god-awful drug given to everyone who MIGHT have a stomach issue) had higher levels.
  • Theophylline products (used to treat asthma) also had higher levels.

Keep in mind that these drugs were the only ones tested.  There are likely other drugs that contain phthalate compounds in the polymer coating on the outside of the pill.  Regardless, even omeprazole itself was listed as the #6 most widely given prescriptions in 2010 at some 53.4 million prescriptions.  That is a LOT of potential exposures to a compound known to cause things like cancer and birth defects.

I, for one, did not really need any additional incentive to avoid medications, but not wanting to have order bras online from Victoria’s Secret as a man certainly adds to the reasons to use lifestyle to manage (or preferably avoid) chronic disease.


James Bogash

For more than a decade, Dr. Bogash has stayed current with the medical literature as it relates to physiology, disease prevention and disease management. He uses his knowledge to educate patients, the community and cyberspace on the best way to avoid and / or manage chronic diseases using lifestyle and targeted supplementation.