Phthalate Exposure Could Increase Risk of Miscarriage: Study

Exposure to certain chemicals used in plastic consumer products during pregnancy may increase a woman’s risk of having a miscarriage, according to the findings of new research. 

In a study published last month in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, researchers from Peking University found women who had experienced clinical pregnancy loss were more likely to have high levels of a class of chemicals known as phthalates in their urine.

Phthalates are a class of chemicals widely used in consumer products, including soaps, shampoos, vinyl flooring and paints. The are also used to soften plastic and are used to manufacture food packaging, raincoats, plastic tubing used in hospitals to deliver medication, car interiors, dryer sheets, cosmetics and nail polish.

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Researchers compared the urine of 172 healthy pregnant women and 132 who had suffered a miscarriage from Beijing, China. They found that the women who suffered miscarriages were more likely to have high levels of phthalates in their urine.

Eight different phthalate metabolites were measured in the urine of the pregnant women. Five metabolites were detected in at least 95 percent of the urine samples. Those included, Mono-methyl phthalate (MMP), Mono-ethyl phthalate (MEP), Monoisobutyl phthalate (MiBP), Mono-n-butyl phthalate (MnBP), and Mono(2ethlyhexyl) phthalate (MEHP).

The average concentration was 51 mg/g of creatinine for MnBP for all participants. Researchers said the concentration of phthalates detected in the women who miscarried tended to be much higher than those in the control group.

Researchers indicate that miscarriages in women with high phthalate levels were most common early in pregnancy, between weeks 5 and 13.

Prior studies have shown harmful side effects linked to the use of phthalates including the increase of the abortion rate in animals. A study published in the journal PLOS One in 2014 linked the exposure of phthalates during pregnancy to a decrease in a child’s intelligence.

Women with the highest levels of phthalates in their urine late in pregnancy were more likely to give birth to children who scored lower on intelligence quotient (IQ) tests later in childhood.

A study published in 2014 revealed phthalates used to manufacture food packaging and storage products may leach into those products, causing serious harm to human health.

The U.S. banned the use of six different phthalates in products made for children, including toys. However, the chemicals are still widely present in many everyday products and used to manufacture products marketed to adults but that children may also use.


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