Prenatal exposure to bisphenol A and phthalates are associated with an increased risk of respiratory infections and asthma symptoms


There is growing concern that prenatal exposure to bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates, which are widely used in consumer products, might affect susceptibility to infections and the development of allergy and asthma in children. However, the number of prospective studies is very limited. Although the European Union decided in January 2015 that BPA was safe at common human doses of exposure, there is no unanimity about it and countries like France and Canada have already withdrawn BPA from circulation.

These compounds are suspected to be endocrine disruptors and to have immunomodulating capacity. This activity could be related to the significant increase of asthma in developed countries in recent decades.

Because the fetal period is suspected to be a time of particular vulnerability to these substances, a new study was conducted to evaluate the effect of prenatal exposures to BPA and phthalates on the risk of developing asthma, allergy and respiratory infections in children.

Levels of BPA and phthalate metabolites were measured in urine samples of pregnant women collected during the first and third trimesters of pregnancy. Atopy was defined based on blood tests and data on respiratory symptoms and diseases were collected through questionnaires conducted from the age of 6 months until the age of 7 years.

Increasing urinary concentrations of BPA and high molecular weight phthalate metabolites were associated with an increased risk of wheeze and respiratory infections during childhood. The risk of asthma was also increased at increasing concentrations of BPA and high molecular weight phthalate metabolites. However, no associations were observed with atopic eczema.

Although the mechanisms involved in this relationship are still unknown, given the results of the study, authors recommend the implementation of policies in order to reduce the exposure to these compounds and follow the precautionary principle.

Reference: Gascon M, Casas M, Morales E, Valvi D, Ballesteros-Gómez A, Luque N, Rubio S, Monfort N, Ventura R, Martínez D, Sunyer J, Vrijheid M. Prenatal exposure to bisphenol A and phthalates and childhood respiratory tract infections and allergy. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2015; 135(2): 370-378.