MONDAY, May 2 (HealthDay News) -- Children born to women exposed to bisphenol A (BPA) during the early part of pregnancy may be more likely to experience wheezing early in life, according to a new study.

BPA is widely used in consumer products, including many hard plastic food containers, water bottles and the lining of metal food and beverage cans. The chemical is present in more than 90 percent of the U.S. population, the researchers note.

This study included 367 pairs of mothers and infants. BPA levels were measured in the mothers' urine at 16 and 26 weeks' gestation and when they gave birth. The parents reported on signs of wheezing in their babies every six months for three years.

The tests showed that 99 percent of the children were born to mothers who had detectable BPA in their urine at some time during pregnancy. A link between BPA levels and wheezing was found only in the youngest children.

Among infants 6 months of age, those whose mothers had high levels of BPA during pregnancy were twice as likely to wheeze as those whose mothers had low BPA levels. There were no differences in wheezing rates by the time the children were 3 years old.

The study found a link between wheezing in children and high BPA levels early in pregnancy -- 16 weeks' gestation -- but not at 26 weeks' gestation or birth.

"Consumers need more information about the chemicals in the products they purchase so they can make informed decisions," lead author Dr. Adam J. Spanier, assistant professor of pediatrics and public health sciences at Penn State College of Medicine, said in an American Academy of Pediatrics news release.

"Additional research is needed in this area to determine if changes should be made in public policy to reduce exposure to this chemical," Spanier said.

He suggested women of childbearing age consider avoiding products made with BPA until more information is available.

The study was to be presented Sunday at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies in Denver. Research presented at meetings is considered preliminary because it has not been subject to the scrutiny required for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about BPA.