Pregnant women who drink from plastic bottles may be harming their children’s brain development, according to a recent study. The research in mice provides an explanation for how exposure to the widely used chemical bisphenol A (BPA) during pregnancy, even at levels lower than the regulated “safe” human exposure level, can lead to altered brain development and behaviour later in life. A previous study showed that pregnant women drinking from plastic bottles may have obese children.
BPA is a chemical that is added to many commercial products, including water bottles, paper receipts, can liners and food storage containers. It is known as an endocrine-disrupting chemical — a chemical that interferes with the body’s hormones. “Decades of research in over 1,000 animal and 100 human epidemiological studies have demonstrated a link between BPA exposure and adverse health outcomes,” said lead researcher Deborah Kurrasch of the University of Calgary in Calgary, Canada.
“This is especially true for the developing brain, which is particularly sensitive to the estrogen-promoting effects of BPA during gestation. Indeed, several human studies have now correlated early life BPA exposure with behavioural problems later in childhood, suggesting BPA permanently alters brain development that leads to lasting effects on neural functioning.”
Governmental agencies around the world, including the US Food and Drug Administration, Health Canada, and European Food Safety Authority, declare BPA to be safe. “One reason for this disparity is the absence of a smoking gun: if BPA is so toxic to developing brains, then where is the evidence of defective brains?” Kurrasch said. “Our study is the first to use environmentally relevant doses of BPA and show exposure to the chemical during brain development can affect the timing of the birth of nerve cells, or neurons.”
“The public is becoming well educated on the debate surrounding BPA safety, as well as other chemicals,” she noted. “Although there is still work to be done to translate these rodent effects to human pregnancy, this research could provide expectant mothers with important information on what to avoid to best protect their babies.”
The research will be presented at ENDO 2018, the 100th annual meeting of the Endocrine Society in Chicago, Ill.