Researchers have just linked prenatal exposure to bisphenol-A
– a near-ubiquitous industrial chemical – with subtle, gender-specific
alterations in behavior among two year olds. Girls whose mothers had
encountered the most BPA early in pregnancy tended to become somewhat
more aggressive than normal, boys became more anxious and withdrawn.
is the first study to link human behavioral impacts with BPA, a common
ingredient in hard polycarbonate plastics and the resins used in
food-can linings. Emerging data from an unrelated research group points
to another especially rich newfound source of BPA to which people
unwittingly may be exposed: thermally printed cash-register receipts
(see next blog).
At present, there’s no way to know if the
apparent behavioral impact of BPA exposures early in development will
persist or disappear, says Bruce Lanphear of Simon Fraser University
in Burnaby, British Columbia. But this epidemiologist, an author of the
new study, says his worry is that if the kids don’t grow out of these
behaviors – and indeed, the changes are expressed widely across a
population – they could greatly increase the number of teens at risk
for delinquency, say, or for one day needing medical treatment of
depression or anxiety.
Further prompting concern that the
associations are real, his team points out, are rodent studies showing
aggression and hyperactivity in pups prenatally exposed to BPA.
Lanphear and his colleagues at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center have been conducting a Health Outcomes and Measures of the Environment
– or HOME – Study for several years. A primary focus has been the
investigation of neurobehavioral risks posed by lead exposures early in
a child’s development. For the study, moms were recruited early in
pregnancy and then followed through their babies’ births. The children
– now three to five years old – will continue to be followed into
Joe Braun of the University of North Carolina
in Chapel Hill, Lanphear and their colleagues (from Cincinnati and the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) decided to also scout for
signs of any BPA impacts within a subset of HOME participants: 249
randomly selected mother-infant pairs. The recruits tended to be middle
class and well educated, Braun notes.