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Authors of Mount Sinai Childhood Behavior Study Acknowledge Their Results Are Neither Statistically Nor Clinically Significant

Kathryn St. John (703) 741-5818
June 3, 2010

ARLINGTON, VA (May 1, 2010) –  While explaining that most of their results don’t reach “conventional levels of statistical significance” and confirming that few of the results were “clinically significant,” the authors of a new study published in Environmental Health Perspectives (Engel et al., April 2010)  nonetheless suggest that prenatal exposure to low molecular weight phthalates may contribute to deficiencies in behavioral functioning. The study subjects, children between the ages of four and nine, were evaluated by their mothers using standardized behavioral surveys. The mothers and infants had previously participated in a larger study conducted by the same researchers at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and volunteered to return for follow-up study of their children. The authors have previously suggested an association between neurological function and prenatal exposure to other environmental contaminants in this same group of children.

The following statement can be attributed to Steve Risotto, Senior Director, Phthalate Esters, American Chemistry Council.

"Understanding the factors that contribute to disease in America's children is critically important. However, results from studies with small sample sizes and nontraditional statistical methods do little to inform the issue and only serve to ignite public concern over unproven theories. While we fully support ongoing research into the science and potential health effects of phthalates, this particular study points to 'consistent patterns' that, upon closer inspection, fail to meet an appropriate level of statistical significance.

“According to the authors, ‘Few surveys met the threshold scores for at risk or clinically significant…in this population.’ They also state that, ‘the associations between urinary concentrations of phthalate metabolites and the adaptive scales did not reach conventional levels of statistical significance.’ The authors make no mention that in previous studies they have attributed behavioral effects in the same children to other contaminants. Moreover, the reported results conflict with the body of knowledge indicating that some of the phthalates implicated are among the least biologically active."

Learn more about phthalates.

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