A gender-bending chemical found in food packaging is linked to breathing problems in young babies, researchers have found.
A study showed pregnant mothers with the highest levels of bisphenol A in their bodies were twice as likely to have babies who suffer from wheezing in their first six months.
Wheezing in babies can be a symptom of lung damage, asthma, bronchitis, allergies or an infection.
Bisphenol A, or BPA, which is used to harden plastics, is one of the world’s most widely manufactured chemicals and can be found in dozens of everyday items including baby bottles, CD cases and food and drink packaging.
If you use water bottles or plastic of any kind (#3, #7, etc), conventionally packed products of any kind or cans and insulated cartons of any kind, chances are you have been exposed to BPA.
Human studies have found BPA in many tissues and fluids, including urine, blood, breast milk, the amniotic fluid of pregnant women and the antral fluid of mature follicles. A national survey conducted by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2003-2004 found BPA in 93 percent of the 2,517 people (age 6 and up) who were tested.
Because the chemical mimics oestrogen, many scientists believe it interferes with the way hormones are processed by the body.
Previous research from North Carolina State University and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) showed significant reproductive health effects in rats that have been exposed to bisphenol-A (BPA) at levels equivalent to or below the dose that has been thought not to produce any adverse effects.
Although several animal studies have shown it to be safe, others have linked Bisphenol A to breast cancer, liver damage, obesity, diabetes and fertility problems.
The latest U.S. study looked at the BPA levels of 367 pregnant women, with researchers at Penn State College of Medicine measuring levels of the chemical in expectant mothers in the 16th and 26th week of pregnancy.
They found 99 per cent of women had measurable levels of the chemical in their bodies – and those with the highest levels in their 16th week were twice as likely to have babies who wheezed at six months old than women with the lowest levels.
However, the study also found that high concentrations of BPA at 26 weeks and at birth were not connected to the condition.
Some experts suggest exposure to hormone-disrupting chemicals causes the most harm during a crucial window of development early on in pregnancy, and believe women of child-bearing age should avoid products containing BPA.
Elizabeth Salter-Green, director of the Chemicals, Health and Environment Monitoring Trust, said: ‘This new research adds further weight to the need to reduce our exposure to this chemical, particularly pregnant women.
It is the foetus developing in utero that is most vulnerable to BPA exposures.’
Last year Denmark became the first country in the EU to ban BPA in packaging for food and drink aimed at under-threes, while the EU itself voted to ban it from baby bottles last year. Canada and three U.S. states have also introduced restrictions.
Adam J. Spanier, lead author of the study, which was presented at a conference in the U.S. yesterday, called for more research into BPA.