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Pregnant Mothers and BPA

Katlyn Joy |31, October 2011


According to several studies over the previous several years, BPA or bisphenol-A exposure can lead to a variety of serious health concerns including cancers and infertility. BPA exposure is especially dangerous for pregnant women as the chemical can affect the developing child.

BPA is a main component in polycarbonate plastics and is found all kinds of products from plastic bottles, plastic kitchen utensils, plastic food storage containers, dental sealants, the linings of cans, and even cash register receipts.

What risks have been discovered with BPA exposure?

- Reduced fertility. A 2009 study linked BPA exposure to lower birth rates and both smaller litter and offspring size in mice.

- Reduced birth weights in their children. The greatest risk was for mothers with high occupational exposure, followed by mothers with lower occupational exposure then mothers who were exposed via their husband's high occupational exposure.

- Permanent DNA changes. In a National Institutes of Health study, researchers injected female mice who were between 9 and 16 days pregnant with a low dose of BPA. The exposure had a permanent result in the genes responsible for uterine development and fertility and also created estrogen sensitivity in the offspring.

- Brain development. The National Toxicology Program issued a report in 2010 warning pregnant women to limit their consumption of canned goods. While acknowledging the higher costs of eating fresh and frozen foods, the report warns that no known safe level has been established for BPA exposure for expectant mothers. The report cited the risks of BPA exposure in utero to brain development, prostate gland problems, and behavioral issues.

- Behavioral problems particularly in girls. The latest study on BPA exposure links the chemical to behavioral and emotional problems in toddler girls.

New Findings

In the October 24, 2011 online edition of Pediatrics published a study done by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health and Yale University School of Medicine researchers found that mothers with higher levels of BPA in their urine during pregnancy had daughters with behavioral and emotional problems at age 3.

The study involved 244 women who had their urine tested for BPA during the pregnancy and shortly after birth. The children were tested at ages 1, 2 and 3.

Nearly all the children and mothers tested positive with BPA, with 85 percent of the mothers and 96 percent of the children having the chemical in their urine.

The test results showed no correlation between BPA levels and behavior in early childhood or with the boys at any age. However, for the girls at age 3 the level of BPA in the mother's urine was linked to behavioral and emotional problems.

The problems noted were such things as high scores on measures of anxiety, depression, hyperactivity, as well as poorer emotional control and inhibition.

Researchers believe the differences between the findings in toddler boys and girls can be attributed to females being more vulnerable to BPA exposure. BPA interferes with estrogen action and while estrogens are important factors in brain development, in boys testosterone is converted to estrogen in the brain. Thus, boys have added protection.

It appears that there is a window of opportunity during fetal development when BPA exposure can affect brain development.

While the toddler girls exhibited behavioral issues, none rose above the level of normal.

Researchers noted that while chemicals and hormones can have lasting negative effects, those effects may not be obvious at birth.

While BPA is being phased out of many products used by children such as baby bottles, it is nearly impossible to avoid chemical in modern Western society. Thus the risk of pregnant women encountering the chemical and passing it on to their developing fetuses is high.

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