Childhood High Blood Pressure on the Rise Thanks to Plastic

kid plastic bottle

It’s one of the last things we think about affecting our children, but high blood pressure may be a health issue for children exposed to phthalates in food packaging, says a study published in the recent issue of The Journal of Pediatrics.

According to the research, which was conducted by New York University’s Langone Medical Centre on close to 3,000 children, chemicals known as phthalates once thought be harmless—found in a number of everyday household products children are exposed to including certain types of flooring, plastic food and beverage packaging, plastic cups, plates and forks, and toys such as beach balls—appear to be causing a rise in the number of cases of juvenile high blood pressure.

While most common in people over age 50, 14 percent of obese teenagers now have high blood pressure (as defined as a systolic blood-pressure reading above 140 mm Hg). Largely connected with rising obesity rates  related to diet, chemicals known to disrupt endocrine function, such as phthalates are also playing a significant role, cite the researchers.

“Phthalates can inhibit the function of cardiac cells and cause oxidative stress that compromises the health of arteries. But no one has explored the relationship between phthalate exposure and heart health in children” says lead author Leonardo Trasande, MD, MPP, associate professor of pediatrics, environmental medicine and population health at NYU Langone Medical Center. “We wanted to examine the link between phthalates and childhood blood pressure in particular given the increase in elevated blood pressure in children and the increasing evidence implicating exposure to environmental exposures in early development of disease.”

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Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites and, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better.