Canadian Press: VANCOUVER, B.C. -- Pregnant women exposed to a common chemical found in plastics are more likely to have daughters with aggressive and hyperactive behaviours, suggests a new study that tested two-year-olds.
The University of North Carolina study, which included a senior scientist from Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, is the first to examine the link between exposure to bisphenol A during pregnancy and behaviour problems in kids.
The results are consistent with other studies showing the impact of the chemical on juvenile female animals.
It's used to make hard, clear reusable water bottles, baby bottles and resins that line the inside of metal food and beverage cans.
Last October, Canada became the first country in the world to ban BPA-containing baby bottles. Some U.S. jurisdictions, including Cincinnati, have legislation that bans or limits the use of the chemical in consumer products.
Bruce Lanphear, a Simon Fraser University professor of children's environmental health, said the study suggests pregnant women start thinking about the effects of bisphenol A long before they lug home baby bottles.
The study, published Tuesday in the journal "Environmental Health Perspectives," measured the BPA levels in urine samples taken from 249 pregnant women in Cincinnati at 16 and 26 weeks pregnancy and again when they gave birth.
Lanphear said the women were followed from early pregnancy until their children were two years old.
He said the chemical concentrations between 13 and 16 weeks of pregnancy were most strongly associated with behaviour problems in girls, but the study found no significant effect on boys.
The girls will be tested again when they're five, at an age children's behaviours tend to be more stable, said Lanphear, who is also senior scientist at the Child and Family Research Institute at B.C. Children's Hospital.
He noted that industry initially fought results of various studies that suggested there were only inconsequential links between lead-based paint and children's behaviour and that pattern appears to be repeating itself for companies producing plastics using bisphenol A.
"What we found over the past 10 or more years is that the kinds of subtle shifts in behaviours or cognition in very young kids oftentimes become manifest as (psychological issues) in older kids and adolescents," Lanphear said.
"At a minimum, we should ask industries to begin to label their products as to whether they contain bisphenol A so we give families a choice when they make purchases."
"Environmental chemicals should be tested for their safety or their toxicity before they're marketed."
Rick Smith, executive director of Toronto-based Environmental Defence, called the study significant, saying the chemical industry can no longer point to animal studies as not being applicable to human health.
"Not only does this underline the importance of getting the chemical out of baby bottles but we now need to take the next step and get it out of other areas where kids are exposed, most notably infant formula containers," Smith said.
However, the American Chemistry Council expressed its reservations about the research pointing out what it called "significant limitations" in the study design and its inability to establish cause-effect relationships.
"The results of this preliminary, and severely limited study cannot be considered meaningful for human health unless the findings are replicated in a more robust study," the group representing the industry said in a statement Tuesday.
In February, researchers at the University of Guelph warned that parents should get rid of anything containing bisphenol A that will be used by babies or pregnant women.
A study by a toxicologist and a graduate of the southern Ontario university found that the chemical lingers in the bodies of newborns and infants.
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