Chemical in plastic food containers increases preterm birth risk
A chemical commonly found in plastic wrapping is linked to preterm births, scientists have warned.
Preterm birth occurs when an infant is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy.
It is the greatest contributor to infant death – and one of the leading causes of long-term neurological disabilities in children, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Pregnant women with high concentrations of the chemical Bisphenol A – or BPA – are more likely to deliver their babies early, revealed experts from The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, United States (US).
The study was published in The Journal of Maternal-Fetal & Neonatal Medicine.
Study author, Dr. Ramkumar Menon, said: “Women are continuously exposed to BPA because it’s used in the construction and coatings of food containers and its release into food is increased by microwave or other heat sources.
“In fact, BPA is so widely used that nearly all women have some level of exposure.”
For the study, Texas scientists analysed blood samples from pregnant women admitted to the hospital for labor and delivery.
They also tested the amniotic fluid of the fetus collected during labour. They found that pregnant women with higher levels of BPA in their blood had a higher chance of delivering a baby preterm.
The samples were obtained by the Nashville Birth Cohort Biobank, according to the study. BPA is structurally similar to the female hormone estrogen.
The chemical binds estrogen receptors within the body – including those responsible for inflammation.
Abnormal inflammation has been found to increase the risk of pregnancy complications, including early water breaking and preterm birth.
The study was the first to investigate the role of BPA levels of preterm birth.
Menon said: “Widespread use of BPA in materials of our daily life and our findings that all patients have some level of exposure suggests that contact with these materials is unavoidable.
“This suggests that a better understanding of how BPA may alter maternal physiology is needed to minimize the risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes.”
The scientists are conducting further studies using cells from pregnant women’s uteruses and fetal membranes to document the molecular pathways, in addition to identifying potential targets for intervention.
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