A new study by researchers at Columbia University suggests that children who are exposed to BPA, or bisphenol A, may be more likely to develop asthma. Children in the study who were exposed to relatively higher levels of BPA between the ages of 3 and 7 were at a higher risk for receiving an asthma diagnosis by age 12 as compared to children who were exposed to relatively lower levels of BPA during the same ages. BPA dangers have been well documented, and the substance has been linked to other childhood health problems including behavioral issues and obesity.
The chemical is found in various types of food packaging, including certain metal cans and plastics. BPA is also found in some baby bottles, making the risk to very small children even more prevalent.
BPA Exposure in the Womb
Researchers at Columbia University sought to learn more about how BPA exposure on behalf of pregnant mothers could influence their children’s likelihood of developing asthma. A team led by assistant medicine professor Dr. Kathleen Donohue collected and examined the urine samples of 568 pregnant women to measure for levels of BPA. Their children were similarly tested later on.
Many of the children were later diagnosed with asthma based on their medical history, lung functioning and other symptoms. Physicians also sought information from the children’s parents to determine whether they wheezed frequently.
Ultimately, the researchers discovered that higher levels of BPA exposure in the womb were associated with a greater likelihood of an asthma diagnosis during early childhood. The researchers were careful to account for many other factors, including second-hand smoke exposure, that could have tainted the results.
BPA Exposure: Second Trimester vs. Third Trimester
The researchers also discovered something that defied logic during their study: children exposed to higher BPA levels in their third trimester were less likely to have trouble with wheezing by the time they reached age 5. The researchers speculate that this could be due to the fact that the immune system and respiratory system develop primarily during the second trimester, not the third trimester. They further assume that exposure to BPA during the third trimester may have little effect on asthma risk.
How to Reduce Exposure to BPA
The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences offers some very helpful tips for reducing your exposure to BPA:
- Don’t put polycarbonate plastic containers in the microwave. Doing so could cause them to release additional BPA.
- Avoid plastic containers that include the number 3 or 7 in their recycling codes. These plastics may include BPA.
- Limit the amount of canned foods you consume.
- Strive to use stainless steel, porcelain or glass containers, especially when the contents are hot
- Always ensure that you use BPA-free baby bottles to feed your child
BPA Dangers: The Bottom Line
Children who are exposed to higher levels of BPA, both in the whom and as young children, are more likely to develop asthma than children exposed to lower levels of BPA. BPA is found in many plastic and canned food containers.
The full text of the study can be found in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.