Low birth weight risk
Phthalate exposure linked to low birth weight.
(Getty Images)
Findings from a study of Chinese newborns suggest that pregnant women exposed to phthalates - plasticzser chemicals used in many consumer products - increases the risk of low birth weight.

In animal studies, phthalate exposure has been linked to reduced fetal birth weight and shorter pregnancies, note Dr. Ren-Shan Ge, from Rockefeller University, New York, and colleagues there and in Shanghai. "No data are available regarding a possible association between phthalate exposure and low birth weight in humans," they point out in the latest issue of The Journal of Pediatrics.

To look into this issue, the researchers measured phthalate levels in the pregnant mother's blood, the cord blood, and meconium specimens obtained from 88 mother-newborn pairs in which the infant had a low birth weight and in 113 unexposed control pairs. Phthalate levels were determined with high-performance liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry.

Low birth weight and control pairs were similar in length of pregnancies, pre-pregnancy body mass index, prenatal care, vitamin supplementation, and socioeconomic levels, according to the report.

Measurable phthalate levels were present in over 70% of samples taken, and significantly higher levels were noted in case pairs than in controls. In particular, prenatal exposure to di-n-butyl phthalate (DBP) was linked to low birth weight, while exposure to di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) was associated with shorter birth length.

Upon further analysis, DBP cord blood levels in the top 25% were associated with a 3.54-fold increased risk of low birth weight compared with levels in the lowest 25%.

The results suggest that prenatal phthalate exposure may be a risk factor for low birth weight, the authors conclude. "Continued surveillance and additional research are needed to evaluate the complex potential health risks from high exposure to phthalates."

Are you afraid of outside exposures affecting the health of your baby?

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