Bisphenol A (BPA) is a used in the manufacturing of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. These materials are found in toys, drinking containers, dental sealants, water pipes, and food and beverage containers, including infant formula. Exposures to BPA are wide spread in our country and BPA has been detected in > 90% of child urine samples in multiple studies. Mouse models suggest exposure to BPA might increase allergic inflammation. Based on these previous studies, investigators from Columbia University and the Centers for Disease Control examined the relationship between BPA exposure and wheezing/asthma in children.
The Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health measured total urinary BPA concentrations from over 500 mothers during the third trimester. They also measured their subsequent children’s urinary BPA levels at ages 3, 5 and 7 years. They determined wheezing in the last 12 months via questionnaires. Asthma was determined by a physician between ages 5 and 12 years. Prenatal BPA urinary concentrations were NOT associated with wheezing at age 5. On the other hand, urinary BPA concentrations at age 3 years were associated with a 40% increase risk of wheezing at ages 5 and 6 years. Elevated BPA concentrations at age 7 years were also associated with a 40% increased risk of wheeze at the same age. Increased BPA levels at ages 3, 5 and 7 years were also associated with an increased risk of asthma (50%, 40% and 50% respectively).
There are a lot of limitations to this study including how they labeled children with wheeze or asthma (no objective tests were used), whether or not urinary BPA concentrations truly measure BPA exposure and the never ending difficulty in proving that associations are actually causative. With all this being said, this is the first report to find an association between childhood urinary BPA concentrations and asthma. This data adds to the growing body of evidence that BPA may be increasing the likelihood of allergic disease.
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Dr. Ananth Thyagarajan (Dr. T.)