Exposure to the endocrine-disrupting chemical bisphenol A (BPA) during pregnancy can cause oxidative damage that may put the baby at risk of developing diabetes or heart disease later in life, according to a new study led by University of Michigan researchers and published in the Endocrine Society’s journal Endocrinology.
Bisphenol A is a chemical used to manufacture plastics and epoxy resins. BPA is found in a variety of consumer products, including plastic bottles, food cans, and cash register receipts.
Research has shown BPA is an endocrine disruptor – a chemical that mimics, blocks, or interferes with the body’s hormones. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have estimated that more than 96 percent of Americans have BPA in their bodies.
Oxidative stress occurs when the body is exposed to high levels of free radicals – highly reactive chemicals that have the potential to harm cells when the body processes oxygen – and the body cannot neutralize the chemicals quickly enough to correct the imbalance. Some environmental toxins such as cigarette smoke, ionizing radiation or some metals may contain large amounts of free radicals or encourage the body to produce more of them, according to the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health.
“This study provides the first evidence that BPA exposure during pregnancy can induce a specific type of oxidative stress known as nitrosative stress in both the mother and offspring,” said the senior author, Dr. Vasantha Padmanabhan, of the University of Michigan’s pediatric endocrinology division. “Oxidative stress is associated with insulin resistance and inflammation, which are risk factors for diabetes and other metabolic disorders as well as cardiovascular disease.”