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Prenatal exposure to BPA may cause wheezing in infants
May 2nd, 2011
08:35 AM ET

Prenatal exposure to BPA may cause wheezing in infants

 A new study is adding to rising concerns about the safety of bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical used to manufacture plastics and found in hundreds of household products, including plastic food containers, soda cans and reusable cups.

Research presented Sunday at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting finds the higher the amount of BPA an expecting mother is exposed to early in her pregnancy, the more likely her newborn will experience wheezing during the first 3 years of life.

According to Dr. Adam Spanier, a pediatrician with Penn State’s Hershey Medical Center and  lead author of the study, fetuses exposed to high levels of BPA at 16 weeks of gestation had an increased risk of transient wheeze. At 6 months the infants were twice as likely to wheeze; the condition persisted for 3 years then cleared up. If moms-to-be were exposed to BPA later in pregnancy, researchers did not see the same effect.

“The challenge with dealing with BPA is that it has such a broad range, from zero to several thousand,” Spanier explains. “We were just looking to see if any exposure was associated with wheezing.”  At 16 weeks of gestation the women in this study tested positive for BPA levels ranging from 0.4 to 37.5 micrograms per liter.

Previous studies – done mainly on mice – have linked BPA to potential side effects on the brain, behavior and prostate gland of fetuses, infants and children, according to the Food and Drug Administration.  But officials with the Environmental Protection Agency say there remains uncertainty in the extrapolation of dose levels from animals to humans. Still, last year the FDA concluded that there is “reason for some concern” and beefed up measures to reduce human exposure to the chemical. In particular, the governement warned parents to limit infants' use of products that contain bisphenol-A

 In response to the study, Steven Hentges, executive director of the Polycarbonate/BPA Global Group with the American Chemistry Council said this: “This small-scale study, which has not been peer-reviewed or published in the scientific literature, is inherently incapable of establishing a cause-effect relationship between any causative agent and wheezing. The statistical associations reported in this study have not been verified or corroborated by any other study on BPA, which is one of the best tested substances in commerce. Based on the full weight of scientific evidence, government agencies around the world have determined that BPA is safe for use.”

Spanier also notes that this investigation, which included 367 pairs of mothers and infants whose BPA levels were tested at 16 and 26 weeks of gestation and again during the delivery, was the first to evaluate the link between BPA and wheezing and the research needs to be replicated in another study population. In this study, 99% of the mothers in the study had detectable levels of urinary BPA at some point during the study. Factors associated with the increased levels in these women included working as a cashier, eating canned vegetables and exposure to tobacco smoke.

Health officials say there are several things that consumers can do to limit their exposure. 

The Department of Health and Human Services recommends purchasing plastic containers marked at the bottom with recycle codes 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6  because they are very unlikely to contain BPA. You can also look for the "BPA-Free" label when shopping for canned goods and various household items.

Experts from the National Institutes of Health recommend consumers avoid putting polycarbonate plastic food containers into the microwave because high temperatures may break down the chemical and increase the chances of BPA entering your food. 

The National Toxicology Program also provides a list of ways to reduce exposure, including opting for fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables instead of canned goods. The lining of the cans are often made with BPAs. They suggest using glass, porcelain or stainless steel containers to store food.

 They also recommend consumers beware of the sales receipts you receive particularly at grocery stores and ATMs, as the developer used for dyes in thermal paper may contain levels of BPA which could pose a risk for human exposure. An NIH spokesperson suggests not taking a receipt unless you have to while the government continues to investigate.


soundoff (15 Responses)
  1. questionauthority

    Wheezing, cmon youv'e got to be kidding!

    May 2, 2011 at 10:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • runswithbeer

      No kids or any chance of having kids would be my guess.

      May 2, 2011 at 18:21 | Report abuse |
    • mendrys

      Your right, the ability to breathe normally is really overrated, especially for infants. This refers to chronic wheezing and while it almost always clears up it's certainly no fun at best and has longer term ramifications at worst. I do believe that this one study is far from conclusive but perhaps shows the need for follow up studies as suggested by Mr. Hentges.

      May 3, 2011 at 03:00 | Report abuse |
    • Bad Patient

      I am highly inclined to believe that this could be true. I know how my skin reacts to pvc (blisters). It only makes sense that there's more to that story. Look at how much of our food and medical supplies are packaged or delivered in plasticizers, pvc, bpa...most of it.

      May 3, 2011 at 17:39 | Report abuse |
    • Bad Patient

      My guess would be that the actual problems are even worse than just not being able to breathe. But, I'm not shocked about that. Actually, I've been wondering about that. Thanks for answering that part. I definitely believe that it's true. (Given that I react to pvc so much...severe blisters...that has to be an allergic response of some type. it makes perfect sense to me that it evokes an allergic response and that your lungs would react to that. sends histamines. histamines would try to protect your lungs.)

      May 3, 2011 at 17:43 | Report abuse |
    • Bad Patient

      I've actually been trying to figure out how to get my own lungs to settle down...this could very well be a part of the problem for me. I have a known allergy to pvc. (i get severe blisters from mp3 player wires and such if i tuck them under my shirt near my skin, some watch bands...when i called the manufacturer they said it was made out of pvc...and think of our water pipes...most are made out of pvc now...so i wouldn't be shocked if this turns out to be much bigger than they are saying here.) thanks cnn. useful information.

      May 3, 2011 at 17:48 | Report abuse |
  2. randy

    May.... or may not ........ what a stupid study. I find it hard to believe a research got paid for this one :(.

    May 2, 2011 at 11:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. capn

    Wheezing is a serious condition. It means your bronchial tubes are restricting the amount of oxygen you are receiving which is crucial to life dummy.

    May 2, 2011 at 11:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bad Patient

      people that don't have it (or don't realize they have it) never get it. people take something as simple as breathing for granted, but not everyone can...breathe. if they ever watched a kid struggle to do something so simple, that we take for granted, i assure you it would change their mind.

      May 3, 2011 at 17:54 | Report abuse |
  4. William Wallace

    What's stupid about it? The hazards of BPA are well known...this is one more reason not to use it in food products.

    May 2, 2011 at 11:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Kristen

    Stupid study? I think not. But you go ahead and pay it no mind...Mr.Darwin had a theory about people like you...

    May 2, 2011 at 14:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. John

    Well, wheezing could be due to exposures to the off-gases of the chemical soup that makes up carpet, present in the environment of many infants. Or, maybe it's simply the formaldehyde exposures from the wood products that make up the crib itself or formaldehyde and other chemicals found on the sheets and bumper materials found in the crib. Or, formaldehyde from new homes. Babies are enveloped in xenobiotics with no efforts to protect them.

    May 2, 2011 at 15:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Conrad Shull

    Like a ball hitting the catcher's glove ain't nothin' until the umpire calls it, this small-scale, non-peer reviewed study, ain't nothin' until it's large-scale and is peer-reviewed.

    May 2, 2011 at 16:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Aimee

    I'm almost 18 weeks pregnant with my third daughter. I'm more likely to avoid eating canned tuna because of the risk of mercury than to avoid using plastic containers and drinking out of soda cans to avoid wheezing in my baby. Neither of my older daughters had wheezing – my youngest developed asthma at age 8, but there's a family history of it.

    May 2, 2011 at 16:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. icrabbidppl

    i'm going the route of avoiding as much and as many unnatural products and foods as i possibly can. we are surrounded by so much on a daily basis that just comes from the territory of living and breathing, that i feel obligated to try and reduce her's and my exposure to man-made, synthetic materials. especially ones that you ingest.

    May 2, 2011 at 19:58 | Report abuse | Reply

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