May 2, 2011 Exposure to the chemical bisphenol A during early pregnancy may be associated with wheezing in children, according to a Penn State College of Medicine researcher.
Bisphenol A, or BPA is a chemical found in many consumer products, including plastic water bottles and food containers. It is present in more than 90 percent of the U.S. population, suggesting widespread exposure. Experimental research suggests that prenatal BPA exposure causes asthma in mice, but no data exists for humans.
Adam Spanier, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of pediatrics, studied 367 children, 99 percent of whom were born to mothers who had detectable BPA levels in their urine during pregnancy. These parents then reported any incidents of wheezing on a twice-yearly basis for three years.
At six months, the odds of wheezing are twice as high for children with mothers who had higher BPA than those who had mothers with lower BPA levels. However, the effects may have diminished as the children aged.
Researchers then looked at the levels of BPA in the women during certain times of their pregnancies and any association with wheezing in their children. The researchers reported their findings May 1 at the Pediatric Academic Societies' annual meeting in Denver.
Higher BPA concentrations in the urine of the pregnant women at 16 weeks were associated with wheezing in their babies. However, concentrations of BPA at 26 weeks or at birth were not associated with wheezing in their children.
"This suggests that there are periods of time during pregnancy when the fetus is more vulnerable," Spanier said. "Exposure during early pregnancy may be worse than exposure in later pregnancy."
The researchers believe that more research is needed to study the correlation between BPA and wheezing in children.
"Consumers need more information about the chemicals in the products they purchase so they can make informed decisions," Spanier said. "Additional research is needed in this area to determine if changes should be made in public policy to reduce exposure to this chemical."
Other researchers who contributed to this work are Allen Kunselman, M.S., Department of Public Health Sciences, Penn State College of Medicine; Robert S. Kahn, M.D., M.P.H., Richard Hornung, Dr.P.H. and Bruce P. Lanphear, M.D., M.P.H., Division of General and Community Pediatrics, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences supported this project.
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