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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Rutgers Study Finds BPA Exposure During Pregnancy May Alter Female Reproductive Development

A recent Rutgers School of Public Health study found that exposure to Bisphenol A, commonly known as BPA, may impact the development of the female reproductive system. BPA is a synthetic chemical widely used in consumer products, including food and drink containers, thermal receipts, medical equipment and other plastic products. Numerous studies have shown the toxic effects of BPA on the human body, particularly on the nervous and endocrine systems. Exposure to BPA is especially concerning during fetal development. Animal models have demonstrated that BPA can cross the placenta, impacting fetal development. In humans, linking prenatal BPA exposure to postnatal outcomes can be challenging because some outcomes- like effects on fertility- may only be seen decades after exposure. Anogenital distance (AGD), a marker of the fetus’ hormone environment in early gestation, can be measured at birth and may be an early sign of altered reproductive development. In adult women, altered AGD is linked to polycystic ovary syndrome, endometriosis, and multi-follicular ovaries.

[Photo: Dr. Emily Barrett]

Dr. Emily Barrett, associate professor in the department of epidemiology and a member of the Rutgers University Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute, along with colleagues, examined AGD in female newborns and BPA exposure in mothers, to determine if maternal BPA exposure during pregnancy had an impact on newborn development. The researchers analyzed first-trimester urine samples from 385 pregnant women who were carrying girls. After birth, the daughters of the participant’s underwent exams including AGD measurement. The researchers found that higher first-trimester BPA levels were associated with shorter AGD in female newborns. While having a shorter AGD is not itself a health concern, it may signal reproductive health issues in the future.

“Our findings provide further evidence that BPA exposure impacts reproductive development in females,” according to Dr. Barrett. “In addition, our study’s findings inform the ongoing controversy of BPA use in a wide range of consumer products and provide evidence to craft policy that limits the use of the toxic chemical in manufactured goods both in the United States and abroad.”

While you probably can’t eliminate your exposure to BPA completely, you can take measures to reduce your levels including: (1) choosing fresh, unprocessed foods whenever possible; (2) limiting consumption of canned foods; (3) avoiding microwaving plastic or using deteriorating plastic products.

“First-Trimester Urinary Bisphenol A Concentration in Relation to Anogenital Distance, an Androgen-Sensitive Measure of Reproductive Development, in Infant Girls” was published in Environmental Health Perspectives.

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