Experiments in mice have shown that phthalate – a chemical used to increase the strength of plastic – increases plasma cholesterol levels. This is because one of these chemicals, called dicyclohexyl phthalate, binds tightly to the X-pregnane receptor. This enhances the effectiveness of key proteins required for the absorption and transport of cholesterol.
Scientists also found large amounts of circulating ceramides, lipid molecules associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease in humans, in the intestines of mice exposed to dicyclohexyl phthalate.
Dicyclohexyl phthalate is a widely used phthalate plasticizer that has been proposed by the US EPA as the highest priority for risk assessment.