The controversial chemical Bisphenol-A used in many plastic products may affect young girls' behavior and make them more susceptible to depression and anxiety.
All manufacturers that sell plastic baby bottles in the United States have removed BPA from their products, but new research suggests those efforts to shield babies from the chemical may have been misguided and should have been aimed instead at their mothers.
Dr. Joe Braun from the Harvard School of Public Health led a study of more than 200 mothers and their young children, comparing their levels of BPA with urine samples from pregnancy up until the kids were 3 years old. Pregnant women who had higher levels of BPA were more likely to have daughters with slightly elevated behavior problems.
"The girls with the higher exposure to BPA during gestation had more depression, anxiety, hyperactivity and aggression," Dr. Braun explains.
There was no link found for boys and no link between kids' BPA levels after they were born and behavior issues.
Virtually every one of us has some detectable level of BPA in our system. The chemical is everywhere, in many plastic products, in the lining of canned food and even on shiny thermal receipts like the ones you get at gas stations. BPA mimics human hormones and has been linked to cancer and developmental problems in animal studies. In response to the new study, the American Chemistry Council states:
"Because of the way BPA is processed in the body, it is very unlikely that BPA could cause health effects at any realistic exposure level."
"The exposures we observed in the women in this study are typical of pregnant women in the United States," Dr. Braun notes.
Still, he agrees his study needs to be confirmed with future research, and he plans to follow these children through age 9. The behavioral differences found in girls in this study were not extreme enough to meet clinical criteria for ADHD, anxiety or depression.