MONDAY, Oct. 24 (HealthDay News) -- Girls who are exposed to
high levels of bisphenol A (BPA) while in their mother's womb may
be more likely to show signs of behavioral and emotional problems
as toddlers, new research finds.
BPA is a chemical widely used in plastic and other household
products. In the study, 244 mothers gave urine samples that were
tested for BPA while they were pregnant and shortly after giving
birth. Their children's urine was tested for BPA at ages 1, 2 and
The vast majority of had some level of BPA in their urine,
including 85 percent of moms and more than 96 percent of the
Researchers found no connection between girls' or boys' levels
of BPA in early childhood and their behavior. Nor did they find a
link between the mothers' BPA levels during pregnancy and boys'
However, researchers did find that the higher the moms' BPA
concentration levels during pregnancy, the more likely their
daughters were to have higher scores on measures of anxiety,
depression and hyperactivity, and poorer emotional control and
inhibition at age 3.
None of the girls' behavior, which was described by their
mothers in questionnaires, was out of the range of normal, noted
study author Joe Braun, a research fellow in environmental health
at Harvard School of Public Health.
"What we found was that the mothers' concentrations of BPA in urine during pregnancy were associated with behavioral problems in daughters at 3 years of age, but we didn't find this relation between mothers' BPA and the boys, and we also didn't observe any relationship between the child's BPA concentrations and behavioral problems," Braun said. "These results suggest that the girls may be more vulnerable to the effects of gestational BPA exposures and there is this unique window of brain development that is susceptible to BPA exposures."
The study is published in the Oct. 24 online edition of the
BPA is used to make polycarbonate plastic (hard, clear plastic)
and epoxy resin. While BPA is beginning to be phased out in the
manufacture of baby bottles and other children's products, it's
still widely used in many other applications, including electronic
and medical equipment, cars, sports safety equipment, and food and
Virtually everyone living in an industrialized nation is exposed
to some amount of BPA, according to the study.
Most human exposure to BPA is believed to occur when the
chemical leaches into food and drink from packaging, particularly
from the liners of canned foods, experts say. Thermal receipts used
in many cash registers are also a source of BPA.
In recent years, concern about the effects of BPA, particularly
on fetuses and young children, have been growing. Animal studies
have shown BPA can cause reproductive abnormalities to both males
and females by disrupting the endocrine system. Other research has
linked BPA to an increased risk of diabetes, cancer and heart
Dr. Hugh Taylor, chief of the division of reproductive
endocrinology and infertility at Yale University School of Medicine
praised the new research, adding the caveat that the findings show
an association, but not causality.
"This is an important study that follows BPA-exposed children to 3 years of age. It proves that the effects of BPA on behavior are long-lasting, and implies that these effects will be there for the life of the exposed individual," Taylor said. "BPA is a hormone-like chemical that interferes with estrogen action. The effects were more pronounced in girls; this is not surprising, as estrogens play an important role in brain development in both boys and girls, however, testosterone is converted to estrogen in the brain, so the boys likely had enough to protect against the BPA."
The fetus, he added, may be especially vulnerable to harmful
"We are just starting to appreciate that exposures in the womb may have subtle lasting deleterious effects that are not immediately apparent at birth," Taylor said. "Behavior and reproduction are often affected by hormones in the environment and adverse effects in these areas are not apparent at birth."
Chemical industry representatives, however, said the study has
"significant shortcomings" and that other research has found BPA
does not cause ill health effects at typical exposure levels.
"The study released in
Pediatrics has significant shortcomings in study design and
the conclusions are of unknown relevance to public health," a
statement released by the American Chemistry Council said. "The
researchers themselves acknowledge that it had statistical
deficiencies, including its small sample size and the potential for
the results being due to chance alone."
For pregnant women worried about reducing exposure to BPA,
experts advised avoiding canned foods, plastics that contain BPA
and cash register receipts.
Braun and his team plan to continue following the children in
the study to see if the symptoms of depression and anxiety seen in
some girls develop into full-blown depressive or anxiety disorders
as they get older.
U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health
Sciences has more on bisphenol A.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Copyright © EBSCO Publishing. All rights reserved.