Warning on chemicals
Pregnant women are being urged to avoid chemicals commonly found in many plastics, foods and cosmetics after a US study found they may increase the risk of premature birth.
Researchers from the University of Michigan tested the urine of nearly 500 women during pregnancy for traces of phthalates – chemicals people are regularly exposed to in food and water and products such as lotions, perfumes and deodorants.
They found that increased levels of some phthalates in urine during pregnancy correlated with higher odds of premature birth. ”Our results indicate a significant association between exposure to phthalates during pregnancy and preterm birth … ,” the researchers wrote in the medical journal JAMA Pediatrics.
While the study did not find evidence of phthalates causing premature delivery, the researchers said it provided strong support for preventing or reducing phthalate exposure in pregnancy.
Professor Sarah Robertson, an expert in reproductive biology who directs the Robinson Institute at the University of Adelaide, said the research was compelling and suggested the chemicals were one of several factors including infection, stress and poor diet that can raise the risk of early birth.