Chemicals found in shampoo, toys and floorboards may increase the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease, research suggests.
A study found people with higher levels of the gender-bending chemicals in their urine were more likely to be obese or diabetic.
They also had dangerous amounts of fat in their bloodstream and showed signs of liver damage, which can cause metabolic disorders.
However, experts have hit back at the research, carried out by the University of Novi Sad in Serbia, saying there is ‘not enough evidence’ to support its conclusion
Levels were compared against body weight, type 2 diabetes diagnoses, and markers of impaired liver function or poor metabolism.
Results revealed 66 of the participants had the chemical monoethyl phthalate (MEP) in their urine.
Obese participants had higher levels of MEP, as well as aspartate aminotransferase (AST) and alanine aminotransferase (ALT).
AST and ALT are enzymes that get released when the liver is damaged and are markers of liver disease.
Results further revealed the participants who were a healthy weight had lower levels of MEP, MEHP and cholesterol.
Study author Professor Milica Medi Stojanoska admitted the sample of participants was small.
She said the results suggest phthalates cause ‘toxic damage to the liver’, as well as altering metabolism to increase the risk of obesity and diabetes.
Professor Stojanoska added:’We need to inform people about the potential adverse effects of endocrine disruptors on their health.
And she called on scientists to look at ways to minimise human contact with the ‘harmful chemicals’.
The study was presented at the European Society of Endocrinology annual meeting in Lyon.
But critics of the research have hit back.
Professor Rob Chilcott, a toxicologist at the University of Hertfordshire, said: ‘The abstract simply does not provide sufficient information to support its conclusions.’
Professor Kevin McConway, emeritus professor of applied statistics at The Open University, added: ‘It’s much too early to be concerned about this piece of research.’