Attention deficit in children could be caused by phthalates used in medical treatment, and the problem may not show up until years after the treatment is received. According to the lead researcher of the new study, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven Ph.D student and M.D. Sören Verstraete, the chemicals used to soften plastic is placing children who require ICU care at risk for attention deficit in the future. Verstraete explained “Phthalates have been banned from children’s toys because of their potential toxic and hormone-disrupting effects, but they are still used to soften medical devices. We found a clear match between previously hospitalized children’s long-term neurocognitive test results and their individual exposure to the phthalate DEHP during intensive care. Development of alternative plastic softeners for use in indwelling medical devices may be urgently indicated. This phthalate exposure explained half of the attention deficit in former PICU patients.”
When researchers examined the phthalate levels of children they determined that the level of DEHP metabolites were undetectable in healthy children who had blood samples taken. The researchers did determine that critically ill pediatric patients who were already hooked up to medical catheters before being admitted to the PICU had sky high levels of the plastic metabolite. The metabolite can impact healthy development and brain function in children so the findings are cause for alarm. Tens of thousands of children are admitted to PICUs across the country every year and these children are at risk for attention deficit as a result of this medical treatment.