By Margarita Nahapetyan
Scientists have found that the exposure to toxic chemicals that are present in cosmetic products, shower curtains, vinyl flooring and children's toys, can put pregnant women to an increased risk of delivering a baby with a low birth weight.
According to the researchers, Phthalate - a chemical compound that is commonly being used to make hard plastics soft and more flexible - is linked to a low birth weight, which can lead health problems such as heart disease and even increase the chance of a child dying in the first few weeks of life.
According to the background information provided in a report, low weight at birth is the leading cause of mortality in children under the age of 5 years, and and it puts babies at high risk of developing cardiovascular and metabolic disease later in life.
For the new study purposes, Dr. Renshan Ge of the Population Council and fellow colleagues from Fudan University and Second Military Medical University in Shanghai, looked at more than 200 pairs of newborn babies who were born between 2005 and 2006. The investigators also examined their mothers. Of all 201 babies in the study, eighty eight were born with low birth weight. The experts analyzed samples of the infants' meconium, the first bowel movement that happens after a baby is born, as well as cord blood in order to find out what were the levels of phthalate.
The results revealed that newborns with low weight at birth, had consistently higher levels of phthalates. More specifically, babies with a low birth weight had, on average, nearlt 30 per cent higher levels of phthalates, when compared to those with normal weight at birth. According to Dr. Renshan Ge, the results have demonstrated that exposure to phthalate was ubiquitous in these infants, and added that prenatal phthalate exposure might be an environmental risk factor for low birth weight in infants.
In spite of the fact that more research and larger studies are needed to be carried out in order to support the the new findings. Meanwhile, the authors suggest that bringing exposure to the chemicals to minimum, could be beneficial to unborn babies. Previous studies have indicated that the chemicals can have a negative impact on hormones in the body, potentially resulting in fertility problems. Earlier this year there was another report warning that phthalates were part of a group of chemicals which were associated with infertility at a later time.
Widely used in industry since the 1930s, phthalate chemicals are also present in glues and paints. Since early 2005, in many European countries, certain phthalates have been banned from hairsprays and other beauty products. However, the chemical is still found in many cosmetic products, such as deodorants, perfumes, and nail polish, as well as hairspray.
The report will be published in the upcoming issue of The Journal of Pediatrics.