The side effects of Tylenol and it’s active ingredient, acetaminophen, may cause language developmental delays among girls, according to the findings of a new study.
Researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York warn that acetaminophen use during pregnancy appears to decrease the number of words young girls use by the age of 30 months. Their findings were published online this month in the medical journal European Psychiatry.
The population-based pregnancy cohort study included 754 women in the Swedish Environmental Longitudinal, Mother and Child, Asthma and allergy study, known as (SELMA). Between weeks eight and 13 of their pregnancy, researchers measured women’s exposure to acetaminophen, sometimes known as APAP, but also the active ingredient in Tylenol.
Once the women’s children were born, researchers looked at language development at 30 months, using a nurse’s evaluation and a parental questionnaire. Children who used less than 50 words were considered to have a language delay.
According to the findings, about 60% of the women reported taking acetaminophen during pregnancy, and confirmed through urine samples. While language delays were more prevalent in boys overall, the number of acetaminophen tablets taken and the concentrations of the drug in the mother’s urine was associated with an increased risk of language delays in girls.
Girls whose mothers took more than six acetaminophen tablets were nearly six times more likely to suffer language delays, the researchers determined. Girls whose mothers urinary concentrations of acetaminophen were highest were more than 10 times more likely to suffer language delays than the urinary concentration of girls whose mothers’ concentrations were the lowest, the findings indicate.
“Given the prevalence of prenatal APAP use and the importance of language development, these findings, if replicated, would suggest that pregnant women should limit their use of this analgesic during pregnancy,” the researchers concluded.
This is not the first study to link Tylenol use during pregnancy to developmental problems in children.
In July 2016, a study by Spanish researchers reported that women who used acetaminophen during pregnancy had twice the risk of giving birth to a child with hyperactivity and impulsivity symptoms. Earlier that same year, researchers from Norway published a study in the same journal warning that exposure to Tylenol during pregnancy and shortly after birth could result in an increased risk of asthma.
Although most concerns assume Tylenol is safe, acetaminophen products have been linked to a number of potential health risks. The pain killer has been identified as a leading cause for liver injury in the United States, causing an estimated 50,000 emergency room visits each year, including 25,000 hospitalizations and over 450 deaths annually. In addition, use of the medication has been linked to a risk of dangerous skin reactions, like Stephens-Johnson Syndrome.
In recent years, efforts have been ramped up to bring the risk of acetaminophen overdoses to the public’s attention and to reduce the amount of liver injury cases linked to the popular analgesic, which is also found in other pain killers and a number of cold medications.
In 2011, Johnson & Johnson lowered the maximum recommended dosage on Tylenol and other acetaminophen-based products from 4,000 mg per day to 3,000 mg per day. However, the drug maker faced a number of Tylenol liver failure lawsuits, which involved allegations that important safety information from the public for decades.
In February, about 200 of those lawsuits were settled out of court.