Exposure in pregnancy to a chemical commonly found in plastics and cans — known as bisphenol A, or BPA — may increase a child's risk of breathing problems, researchers say. In a study of nearly 400 pregnant women and their children, researchers found that each 10-fold increase of BPA in a mother's urine was associated with a 14 percent decrease in the child's breathing function at 4 years of age. In addition, a 10-fold increase in BPA at 16 weeks' gestation was associated with more than four times the likelihood of persistent wheezing at age 4, the study found. Persistent wheezing can be a sign of asthma.
Asthma rates have risen dramatically in the past three decades and many scientists believe that environmental factors are to blame. Things like tobacco smoke and airborne pollutants have been identified as risk factors and now research has suggested that exposure to bisphenol A (BPA, a common chemical used in some plastics) may also contribute.
The authors of the study published in JAMA Pediatrics examined 398 mothers and their infants. To assess BPA exposure urine samples were collected from the mothers during pregnancy at 16 and 26 weeks. Urine samples were also collected from the children annually to assess their exposure.
The researchers were looking for three main outcomes like lung function (as measured using forced expiratory volume in the first second of expiration, or FEV1) and wheezing in the children during the first five years of life.
By age 4 every 10-fold increase in the average maternal urinary BPA concentration was associated …
That link between prenatal BPA exposure and wheeze might be reflective of asthma, Spanier says, which would be consistent with what animal models are finding. “Some animal studies out there suggest that BPA prenatally might affect the development of some of the cells in our airway,” he says. Asthma has been on the rise for the past three decades, and environmental exposures like BPA are thought to be a possible link.
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