- Bisphenol-A, phthalates, and similar chemicals are endocrine disrupting chemicals found in many consumer goods, like cosmetics, soaps, nail polish, and hairspray.
- Researchers found that mothers with higher levels of EDCs in their system during pregnancy had children with lower IQ scores, especially boys, whose scores dropped by 2 points.
- This study is also among the first to study prenatal endocrine disrupting chemical mixtures in relation to neurodevelopment.
Scientists have found evidence that exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) during pregnancy may reduce children’s IQs.
Bisphenol-A, phthalates, and similar chemicals are EDCs found in many consumer goods, like cosmetics, soaps, nail polish, and hairspray, according to the
Researchers measured 26 EDCs in the blood and urine of 718 mothers during the first trimester of pregnancy in the Swedish
They investigated substances that included bisphenol A (BPA) typically found in plastic food and drink containers, pesticides, phthalates, and other chemicals found in household products.
They followed up with the children at age 7 to find that mothers with higher levels of EDCs in their system had children with lower IQ scores, especially boys, whose scores dropped by 2 points.
“This study is significant because most studies evaluate one chemical at a time, however, humans are exposed to many chemicals at the same time, and multiple exposures may be harmful even when each individual chemical is at a low level,” study author Eva Tanner, PhD, MPH, researcher at the Department of Environmental Medicine and Public Health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai told Healthline in an emailed statement.
The study was published today in Environmental International.
Surprisingly, the findings suggest bisphenol F (BPF), the compound that replaced BPA in some products, made the highest potential contribution to lowering IQ — meaning that BPF may not be any safer for children than BPA.
This study is also among the first to study prenatal endocrine disrupting chemical mixtures in relation to neurodevelopment.
“It shows that exposure to mixtures of chemicals in ordinary consumer products may impact child brain development and that some chemicals believed to be safer, like BPF, may not be any safer for children,” said Carl-Gustaf Bornehag, PhD, professor at Karlstad University, and member of the research team, in an email.
“BPA is found in some hard plastics containers, epoxy lining of canned foods, toys, and thermal paper,” Hong-Sheng Wang, PhD, professor at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine told Healthline.
“Phthalates are a group of chemicals and are used as plasticizers. They are added to a wide range of plastics to make them more flexible,” he said. “Some examples are building material, garden hose, toys, plastic packaging, medical products, and personal care products.”
Other chemicals looked at included the pesticide chlorpyrifos, polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) found in cleaning products, and a chemical in antibacterial soaps called triclosan.
Many of these chemicals are quickly eliminated by the body, which means even short-term exposure could be harmful.
Researchers believe this shows that preventing exposure to pregnant women or women trying to become pregnant is critical to prevent childhood neurological harm.
“BPA has been detected in fetal plasma and in placenta at birth. A large number of animal experiments have shown that developmental exposure to BPA can increase the risk of obesity, diabetes, reproductive and neuroendocrine disorders, and mammary cancer,” said Wang.
According to researchers, while removing exposure to a short-lived pollutant may eliminate adverse effects in adults, exposure during critical periods of fetal development may affect health years later, with these chemicals potentially influencing health outcomes into adulthood.
“We found that in a population-based pregnancy cohort, early prenatal exposure to a mixture of suspected EDCs was related to lower levels of cognitive functioning at age seven, particularly among boys,” wrote the study authors.
“We identified mostly short-lived pollutants as chemicals of concern, suggesting that interventions to abate current exposure among pregnant women or women trying to become pregnant may mitigate the potentially harmful neurodevelopment impacts of prenatal EDC exposure,” they continued.
According to 2012 research published in the journal NeuroToxicology, adjusting your lifestyle to include more fresh foods and limit use of products containing environmental chemicals can significantly reduce exposure to EDCs.
Scientists studied individual behavioral choices, community lifestyle practices, and analyzed urine samples from a group of pregnant old order mennonite (OOM) women, a religious sect typified by their rejection of modern technology. It was found that they had much lower levels of EDCs in their bodies compared to the general population.
While 70 percent of the OOM women had detectable levels of BPA, and all of them had detectable levels of the phthalates being tested, levels were still much lower than the researchers expected.
However, Wang points to other research which finds otherwise.
“It’s commonly advised that minimizing the use of plastic food and beverage containers, canned food, and other products that contain BPA can reduce exposure to BPA, which has been demonstrated in some studies,” said Wang.
“However, a recent study showed that in a real world setting, avoiding known dietary sources of BPA was ineffective in reducing BPA exposure,” he said. “This is perhaps related to the fact that BPA is a near ubiquitous chemical, and not all food packaging containing BPA is clearly labeled.”
Recent research finds exposure during pregnancy to endocrine disrupting chemicals, many commonly found in household products, can reduce the IQ of children as measured at age 7.
Most of these chemicals only stay in the body a short time, indicating that even brief exposure can cause harm.
Researchers say that finding ways to reduce exposure among pregnant women or those trying to become pregnant could help reduce the harmful effects of these chemicals on a child’s brain development.