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IQ impacted for children of pregnant women exposed to higher levels of phthalates

New research has found that the children of women exposed to higher levels of certain phthalate chemicals when pregnant have lower IQ at seven years old. The research, published in the journal PLOS One, looked at the levels of phthalates (a commonly used group of chemicals) in the urine of 328 mothers late in their pregnancy, and then tested the IQ of their children when they were 7 years old.

The authors found that two of the phthalates, DnBP and DiBP, had significant associations with reduced IQ, and they conclude: 

Maternal prenatal urinary metabolite concentrations measured in late pregnancy of DnBP and DiBP are associated with deficits in children’s intellectual development at age 7 years. Because phthalate exposures are ubiquitous and concentrations seen here within the range previously observed among general populations, results are of public health significance.

The research has been covered in The Guardian, which quotes one of the researchers:

“People, and especially pregnant women, should try to reduce their exposure to phthalates, and we as investigators follow the same advice that we give,” said Pam Factor-Litvak, an epidemiologist at Columbia University in New York.

“We advise them to avoid microwaving food in plastic. We ask them to avoid scented products, including cleaning products, air fresheners, and scented personal care products, because phthalates hold scent. And we ask them to avoid the use of plastics that are labelled 3, 6, or 7, because of the chemicals they contain.

“We also advise them to store food in glass containers rather than plastic ones,” she said. “Although we didn’t measure phthalate levels earlier in pregnancy, I think it’s prudent to take this advice throughout the entire pregnancy.”

The Guardian also quotes CHEM Trust’s Gwynne Lyons:

“The number of studies showing that these substances can cause harm is growing, but efforts by Denmark to try and get EU action on some phthalates had run into difficulties, largely because of concerns about the costs to industry.”

For more information on this group of chemicals, see our other blog posts on phthalates.