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Banned Chemical Still in Use in Hospital IVs Linked to Attention Deficit Disorder in Children

Apr 1, 2016

In light of a new study, a chemical called phthalates, used to make plastic IV tubes and catheters, has been linked to attention deficit disorder (ADD) in children who are in treatment for serious illness, the Washington Post reports.

Phthalates, the plastic-softening chemical in question, have been banned from children's toys and products, such as soft books and teething rings, because of their potential toxic effects. At the request of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, U.S. manufacturers have not used phthalates in those children's products since 1999. The chemicals are known to disrupt hormones and have been implicated in conditions from asthma to autism, reports the Washington Post.

"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," said lead researcher Soren Verstraete, from Leuven, Belgium to the Endocrine Society.

From newborns to age 16, researchers, including Verstraete, tested 449 children who were treated in pediatric intensive care units with their care using between one and 12 medical tubes. The findings were high levels of phthalates and until the children's discharge from the ICU, those levels remained 18 times higher than those in a healthy children's control group, the Washington Post reports.

The scientists performed neurocognitive tests four years later on the once-critically ill children. A strong association between high exposure to phthalates and development of attention deficit disorder was found. Findings were similar when the testing was repeated with a control group of more than 200 pediatric ICU patients.

The conclusion reached was that "the medical tubing and catheters were 'potentially harmful' to children's brain development and function," according to the Washington Post.

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