Researchers at Central Washington University in Ellensburg, Washington have found that exposure to the chemical acetyl tributyl citrate (ATBC), which is used as a phthalate alternative in many plastics, food packaging and other products, could hinder the growth and maintenance of neurons. Phthalates, or plasticisers, used to enhance the durability or flexibility of consumer products, have long been associated with a range of health problems, including reproductive system damage in animals. In response, manufacturers have switched to alternatives such as ATBC, which now faces fresh scrutiny. Researchers used neuroblastoma cells to study how ATBC and other chemicals affected genes and processes involved in cellular division. They found that neuroblastoma cells exposed to ATBC increased their expression of two genes associated with cellular stress and also increased their production of an enzyme that degrades cellular senescence, which can cause cells to stop dividing.