Chemicals used in consumer products ranging from perfumes and hair sprays to artificial leather and garden hoses may be found in surprisingly high levels in humans, according to a new study by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. When the scientists tested blood and urine samples from people for chemicals in the phthalates family — substances shown to cause cancer, birth defects, and adverse hormonal effects in lab animals — they found levels higher than those of toxics more often tested for, such as lead and PCBs. Mike Shelby of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences said the results show that humans are being exposed to phthalates at a high level and that “those with the highest levels are getting higher doses than we thought.” Up to 4 million tons of phthalates are produced each year for use in plastics, and environmentalists claim they may be among a whole bunch of hormone-disrupting chemicals causing cancer and reproductive problems in humans. But industry representatives have downplayed links between the chemicals and human health problems.

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