Exposure to the chemical bisphenol-A (BPA), which is commonly found in plastic products, may increase a child’s risk of developing asthma, according to the findings of a new study.
In findings published last week in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, researchers from Johns Hopkins University, the University of Maryland, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that children who had higher concentrations of BPA in their urine face a 40% higher risk of suffering from asthma symptoms, raising further concerns about the controversial chemical.
Researchers examined concentrations of BPA and similar chemicals in 660 urine samples from 148 predominantly low-income, African American children between the ages of 5 and 17 living in Baltimore, who had established asthma. The data included healthcare utilization information and pulmonary function and inflammation data collected every three months over the course of one year. Caregivers filled out a survey concurrently detailing symptoms the child was experiencing at that follow up.
According to the study, BPA was found in every urine sample taken, with average concentrations of 3.6 nanogram per milliliter. Furthermore, a 10 times greater level of BPS in the urine was linked to a 40% increased risk of having coughing, wheezing or chest tightness in the prior two weeks. Children also had an 84% and 112% increased chance of reporting acute care or emergency room visits in the prior three months.
BPA is a chemical used to manufacture plastics and other consumer products. It is often used in the lining for canned foods, water bottles, food containers, and cash register receipts. More than 7 million tons are produced each year.
BPA is also a known endocrine disruptor and can interfere with how the hormones in the body function. Studies have linked BPA exposure during pregnancy to increased risk of estrogen related diseases. Exposure during pregnancy has also been linked to decreased lung function in children.
In the new study, higher BPA concentrations were associated with increased odds of suffering asthma symptoms and healthcare utilization, especially among boys. Other studies have shown BPA can lead to increased risk of anxiety and depression among boys.
“We found evidence to suggest that BPA exposure in a predominantly low-income, minority pediatric cohort is associated with asthma morbidity and that associations may differ by sex,” researchers wrote.
Researchers indicated the data for Bisphenol S (BPS) and Bisphenol F (BPF) did not consistently link them with asthma symptoms or health care utilization. Higher levels of BPS and BPF were not consistently associated with more asthma symptoms.
Both BPS and BPF are commonly used in consumer products as a replacement for BPA, especially as more studies have indicated a link between the chemical and negative health effects. However, even BPA-free alternatives pose a risk to human development.
This is the first study to examine children’s environmental exposure to BPA, BPS, and BPF and their associations with asthma severity.
The researchers say the findings highlight a need to examine the link between BPA and asthma considering the high burden of pediatric asthma and widespread exposure to BPA in the U.S. Roughly 25 million Americans have asthma, affecting about one in 12 children.
“In summary, we found evidence to suggest that BPA exposure among a predominantly low-income, minority cohort of children with asthma may increase asthma morbidity, at least for boys. We found no consistent associations between BPS or BPF and asthma morbidity,” the researchers concluded. “Our findings warrant replication given widespread BPA exposure in the US population and the potential clinical implications for asthma control guidelines.”