Pregnant ladies: exposing yourself to plastics may harm your unborn child

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We all know how plastic products can hurt our overall wellness, and endanger our fertility. But here’s what most women don’t realise: exposing yourself to plastics can even impact your unborn child’s well-being, and result in your child developing conditions such as asthma, diabetes, and more.

In this article, we discuss all the research that has been published on how plastics (specifically, BPA and phthalates!) may impact an unborn child. Read on to find out more!

Bisphenol A (BPA)

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What is it: BPA is an organic synthetic compound and chemical that’s widely used in the production of plastics.

Where it’s found: Food and drink packaging, eg in water bottles and on the inside coating of canned food.

Research on BPA:

In 2007, researchers from Duke University Medical Centre, North Carolina found that exposure within the womb to BPA could result in unborn children developing diseases such as obesity, cancer and diabetes, as they age. The study, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, also noted that the influence of BPA was “counteracted” when pregnant mothers took folic acid supplements.

In 2014, scientists at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia found that pregnant women who drink and eat from bottles or containers that contain BPA chemicals may negatively impact their unborn children. According to study results, exposure to BPA during fetal development could lead to consequences such as a two-fold increased risk for obesity and type two diabetes further down the road.

In 2017, researchers from The Endocrine Society in Washington DC found that BPA is linked to an unborn child’s increased risk of obesity. According to the study, children who are exposed to BPA are likely to become less sensitive to leptin, which is a hormone that’s responsible for controlling appetite.

Phthalates

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What is it: Phthalate is a chemical substance added to plastics to increase their flexibility, transparency, durability, and longevity.

Where it’s found: Food containers, air fresheners, shampoos, cosmetics, and other household products.

Research on phthalates:

In 2005, a study carried out by scientists from centres across America showed that women with higher levels of four different phthalates were more likely to have baby boys with health conditions. These conditions ranged from smaller penises and undescended testicles to a shorter perineum (the distance between the genitals and the anus).

In 2015, Columbia University conducted a study, and found that mothers who had high levels of phthalates in their urine during pregnancy gave birth to children with lower IQs. By the time these children turned seven, their IQs were more than six points lower than those born to mothers with less phthalates in their bodies. The researchers accounted for other factors that might influence children’s IQ, including the mother’s education level and the child’s living conditions, but this did not affect their findings.

In 2017, researchers from Germany’s Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research published a study showing how exposure to phthalates during pregnancy can put a woman’s unborn child at the risk of developing asthma allergies. According to the study, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, phthalates “switch off” certain genes, and prevent their code from being read. When this happens, the T-helper 2 cells that are “conducive to the development of allergies” are no longer inhibited, and this increases the likelihood that an allergy will develop.

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