An epidemiological study conducted in France by Inserm and published in the journal Environmental Health Perspective confirms the dangers of exposing pregnant women to endocrine disruptors (bisphenol A, triclosan and certain phthalates) on their little boys.
3 substances of special concern
For Inserm, the French Institute of Health and Medical Research, among the fifteen or so chemicals tested, the compounds “of most concern in this regard” are bisphenol A and triclosan (which are phenols) and DBP (di-n-butyl phthalate) which is a phthalate.
“This is further proof of the effect of these endocrine disruptors,” says Rémy Slama, an epidemiologist at the Institute for the Advancement of Biosciences in Grenoble.
In vitro research has shown that all these chemicals are suspected endocrine disruptors. They are likely to interact with the hormonal system that controls the development of the child’s brain.
Triclosan is an antibacterial agent found in some toothpastes and soaps. It is allowed up to certain limit values in cosmetics and is banned in textiles at EU level.
DBP is used in glues, nail polish and hair lacquers and to soften plastics such as PVC. It too is regulated according to a value limit logic and is prohibited in cosmetics.
The study, conducted by Claire Philippat and led by Rémy Slama, involved 529 little boys.
Pregnant women were recruited between 2003 and 2006. During pregnancy, these women had their urine analyzed to determine the biomarkers characteristic of exposure to phenols and phthalates. It was found that 70 to 100% of the Eden women were then exposed to detectable levels of these substances.
At the age of 3 and 5, they completed a questionnaire assessing aspects of their behavior such as hyperactivity, emotional and relational disorders.
The study shows that exposure to bisphenol A was associated with an increase in relational disorders at 3 years and hyperactive behaviors at 5 years.
“This research confirms that the effects of bisphenol A on behavior observed in laboratory animals are found in humans at low exposures, probably lower than those recommended by the European Food Safety Authority,” states the report. Inserm.
“The vise is also tightening around the DBP”
DBP was associated with more emotional and relational disorders, including withdrawal behaviors, at age 3, but not at 5 for emotional disorders.
The associations between BPD and behavior had already been demonstrated in previous studies in young boys and animals. “The vice is also tightening around this substance,” said Rémy Slama.
The study also showed an association between triclosan and an increase in emotional disorders at 3 and 5 years. “This is the first study to evaluate the effects of this compound on human behavior,” notes the epidemiologist.
His team had already demonstrated a decrease in head circumference at birth in small boys exposed in utero triclosan.
Study also little girls
One of the limitations of the study is that pregnant women have had only one urine sample taken. The Grenoble teams will focus on refining the results by following a new mother-child cohort (Sepages) from Inserm.
Many urine samples per participant (mother and child) will be collected during pregnancy and the child’s early years, to better measure exposure to the substances. The study will be extended to girls because the effect of endocrine disruptors is likely to be different on them.