A link termed “very preliminary” has been made between exposure to the chemical bisphenol A (BPA) before birth and later behavioral problems in girls.
No similar link was found between exposure to the chemical at the same “higher” levels by boys and the behavioral problems, which include anxiety and hyperactivity. BPA is used in making plastics, and is found in some food packaging and canned goods. The study was centered near Cincinnati and involved nearly 250 pregnant women. Urine samples were taken twice during the pregnancy, and then again immediately after the babies were born. Researchers tested for BPA concentration in the samples, and then retested the children yearly to determine levels.
BPA was present in the urine of almost all the women who participated in the study, with concentrations averaging 2 micrograms a liter. For every tenfold increase in BPA levels, researchers observed a corresponding spike in levels of anxiety, diminished emotional control and hyperactivity.
After that, 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. Race, income, marital status and education level for mothers was accounted for in the study.
Study author Joe Braun of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston said of the group:
“The vast majority of our children were typically-developing children and didn’t meet any clinical criteria for behavioral problems.”
Future studies are planned to explore the link between BPA and behavioral problems in girls.