Babies in intensive care endangered by hormone-altering plastics

Infants in hospital intensive care units have much higher levels of a hormone-altering chemical in their bodies than other newborns, according to a new study. The chemical, a phthalate called DEHP, is often added to vinyl — including some medical devices commonly used in natal intensive care — to make it pliable. It’s considered especially dangerous to baby boys, as it’s been shown to block testosterone and cause testicular damage in laboratory animals. Scientists from the Harvard School of Public Health found that babies receiving the most intensive care at two Boston-area hospitals had the highest levels of DEHP of all newborns tested — up to 17 times higher than children in the general U.S. population. The FDA has recommended that hospitals cut back on using devices containing phthalates, but doesn’t require it. Alternatives are available, but many hospitals don’t use them. Health Care Without Harm, a coalition of 435 groups from 53 nations, is urging hospitals to immediately switch to equipment that is DEHP-free.