BPA Exposure: Should Pregnant Women Be Concerned?

A new study has found a connection between bisphenol A exposure during pregnancy and behavioral problems in girls.

Bisphenol A, or BPA, is a common chemical used to make polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. The plastics are often used in food and beverage containers, toys and other consumer goods, while the resins are used to coat the insides of metal products, such as food cans, bottle tops and even water supply lines.

Certain paper products, such as cash register receipts, also contain BPA.

The chemical is extremely controversial, and many experiments are currently being done to determine the effect of BPA exposure on humans.

In this latest study, Harvard researchers took urine samples from 244 pregnant women living in Cincinnati twice during their pregnancies and once directly after giving birth and measured the BPA concentration.

Afterward, the researchers measured BPA levels in the children each year. At age three, parents filled out a survey on kids' anxiety, depression, aggression and hyperactivity, as well as any behavioral problems or trouble controlling their emotions.

Nearly all the women and children had traces of BPA in their urine – on average, a concentration of two micrograms per liter – but the researchers found for every tenfold increase in that concentration during pregnancy, daughters had significantly higher scores on tests of anxiety and depression and had worse behavioral and emotional control.

The same effect was not seen in sons, the researchers said, nor did the children’s own exposure to BPA seem to affect behavior.

I believe this study points to the very important fact that environmental pollutants could have theoretical effects on unborn children, which we learn more and more about every day.

It is well-documented that many toxins women are exposed to during pregnancy could have detrimental effects on newborns. Consider teratogenic agents, such as Agent Orange or alcohol, which have been proven to cause birth defects ranging from cleft lip to anencephaly - a fatal condition where the infant is born without a forebrain.

But more recently, there has been a great concern about all of these subtler toxins, like BPA, and what possible effects they could have on growing fetuses. Both the Department of Health and Human Services and the Food and Drug Administration admit they have “some concerns” about BPA and recommend limiting exposure.

As an obstetrician, I have seen the effects of many different toxins on pregnancies, and as a result, I always try to encourage pregnant women to be as natural as possible and to focus on the key nutrients that are essential for human development, rather than packaged or manufactured goods.

If you are pregnant, or simply have concerns about BPA, here are some steps you can take to minimize your exposure:

- Seek out BPA-free products

- Remove food from plastic containers before heating it in the microwave

- Use glass, porcelain or stainless steel containers for foods and liquids instead of plastic

- Cut back on canned foods