Women exposed to pesticides and plasticizers are more likely to have fertility problems and lower birth-weight babies, says a new study.
Plasticizers (or phthalates) are chemical additives used to increase plasticity and softness of materials like plastic, clay, cement and concrete. Bisphenol A – notoriously known as BPA – is found in some plasticizers. And in recent years, numerous reports have implicated BPA in many health risks; such as cancer, obesity and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
For the new study, published in the online version of the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, scientists examined data of 6,000 women, average age 30, who were pregnant between 2002 and 2006.
The analysis revealed 5.5% of women had a preterm birth and 1% gave birth before 34 weeks. Preterm birth was considered fewer than 37 weeks of pregnancy.
Additionally, 15% of the babies weighed less than 3,000 grams at birth and 5% had a low birth-weight; low birth-weight was 2,500 grams. Factors like age, smoking, drinking, education level and ethnicity were all considered.
Findings on chemicals showed women exposed to phthalates and pesticides were more than twice as likely to need six months longer to conceive. Also, the women had lower birth-weight babies.
The American Pregnancy Association recommends avoiding all pesticides and harmful chemicals during pregnancy, especially in the first trimester, when the nervous system of the baby is developing.
Image credit: Nathan Rein