“Does exposure to Bisphenol A during childhood influences development or behavior?”
Bisphenol A (BPA) is a synthetic chemical widely used in the manufacture of plastics, from food containers, through fire retardants, to dental sealants, among other applications. BPA use is so extended that human exposure to this product is almost ubiquitous, being food and drink the predominant exposure sources to the general population, and being detected consistently in amniotic fluid, placenta, or maternal breast milk. BPA is an endocrine-disrupting compound (a substance able to alter de hormonal functioning), that can interfere with thyroid hormones, estrogens or androgens. It seems that it can also influence neurodevelopment and behavior. This is why several studies have investigated exposure to BPA during pregnancy and the posterior neurodevelopment of the child, having found associations with anxiety, hyperactivity, depression, attention problems, and other impairments in childhood.
However, does the same happen when Bisphenol A exposure occurs postnatally, during childhood?
This is the issue tackled by a study of the Granada INMA cohort, established between 2000 and 2002, in which 668 mother-son pairs were recruited. A total of 269 boys were selected to assess the relationship between postnatal exposure to BPA (estimated from urinary concentrations) and cognitive functioning and behavioral problems at age 9 – 10 years (measured by different questionnaires and scales).
In this study, BPA was detected in all samples, and its higher concentration was associated with worse scores in behavioral and social problems scales, which is consistent with previous studies about postnatal exposure to BPA. Although the effects of prenatal exposure on behavior appear to be more pronounced than the effects of postnatal exposure, the latter should not be underestimated, as shown in this study.
BPA exposure can affect behavior during a crucial brain development stage of boys. More epidemiological studies are necessary, which include girls to clarify the sex-dependent nature of BPA effects, and also to identify critical exposure periods and to study possible long-term consequences on mental health
Reference: Perez-Lobato R, Mustieles V, Calvente I, Jimenez-Diaz I, Ramos R, Caballero-Casero N, López-Jiménez FJ, Rubio S, Olea N, Fernandez MF. Exposure to bisphenol A and behavior in school-age children. Neurotoxicology. 2016 Mar;53:12-19.