BPA Could Make Girls More Hyperactive and Aggressive

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Girls born to women who were exposed to BPA (bisphenol A) early in pregnancy and who had high BPA concentrations in their urine may be more hyperactive and aggressive than those born to women with lower BPA levels. The study was the first to examine whether there is a link between prenatal exposure to BPA and behavior problems in children.

BPA is a substance that is commonly used in the manufacture of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins found in plastic bottles, toys, medical tubing, canned food linings, and water supply pipes. Because it is so ubiquitous in our environment, it is no surprise that more than 90 percent of people in the United States have detectible levels of the toxin in their urine. Some previous studies have found detectable levels of BPA in the urine of pregnant women, and others have shown BPA to cause increased aggression, hyperlocomotion, and memory impairment in laboratory animals.

The impact of BPA on the fetus and ultimately on the child is a concern and so it was the subject of the study recently published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. Researchers from Simon Fraser University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital collected urine samples from 249 pregnant women in Cincinnati, Ohio, at 16 and 26 weeks of pregnancy, and again at birth. The concentration of BPA was measured in all samples, and then the resulting children were evaluated at age two years for behavior problems.

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Two-year-old girls were more likely to be hyperactive and aggressive if their mothers had higher concentrations of BPA in their urine samples during pregnancy than children of women who had lower BPA levels. Exposure to BPA early in pregnancy seemed to be most critical, and the authors suggest that the most damage might occur before women even know they are pregnant. Boys' behavior did not seem to be affected by levels of BPA in their mothers’ urine.

One limitation of the study is that the investigators were not able to determine whether postnatal exposure to BPA was associated with childhood behavior. The investigators do plan, however, to continue monitoring the children in the study until age five to see if there are any further or additional changes in aggression and/or hyperactivity over time.

In the meantime, according to section 215 of the Food Safety and Enhancement Act of 2009, the Secretary of Health and Human Services has until December 31, 2009, to “notify the Congress whether the available scientific data support a determination that there is a reasonable certainty of no harm, for infants, young children, pregnant women, and adults, for approved uses of polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resin made with bisphenol A in food and beverage containers, including reusable food and beverage contains, under the conditions of use prescribed in current Food and Drug Administration regulations.” It remains to be seen whether the FDA will protect the public from BPA exposure, including the most vulnerable.

SOURCES:
Braun JM et al. Environmental Health Perspectives online doi: 10.1289.ehp.0900979
Padmanabhan V et al. Journal of Perinatology 2008; 28(4): 258-63

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