May 2, 2011

Childhood Wheezing Caused By Prenatal BPA Exposure?

It is in your food containers, water bottles, and 90 percent of us have it in our bloodstream. It may also be a prime candidate for causing wheezing in children if pregnant mothers come into contact with it. Experimental research in bisphenol A, (BPA) suggests that prenatal BPA exposure causes asthma in mice. No firm data yet exists for humans but results are not looking good.

Adam Spanier, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of pediatrics at Penn State College of Medicine, studied 367 children, 99 percent of whom were born to mothers who had detectable BPA levels during pregnancy.

Twice a year for three years, the parents reported back with any signs of wheezing in the children. At six months of age, twice as many children were reported with wheezing from mothers who had higher BPA than those who had mothers with lower BPA levels. These effects may have diminished as the children aged however.

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 Sunday at the Pediatric Academic Societies' annual meeting in Denver.

Higher BPA concentrations in 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 the condition.

At 6 months of age, infants whose mothers had high levels of BPA during pregnancy were twice as likely to wheeze as babies whose mothers had low levels of BPA. However, no differences in wheezing rates were found by 3 years of age.

"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 are interested in continuing a study of these products and its effects. "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."

According to a Penn State press release: "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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