Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Study Finds that Component of Plastic is Associated with Pregnancy Loss

In a study released late last year, researchers from Denmark found a possible link between phthalates in plastics and pregnancy loss:
Women who were exposed to relatively common levels of a particular phthalate were more likely to experience early pregnancy loss than women exposed to lower levels of the phthalate.

Phthalates are compounds used in plastics to make them more flexible, transparent, and durable.  They are commonly used in food packaging, personal products such as perfume and cosmetics, and even children’s toys.  In the Denmark study, the particular phthalate in question is called monoethylhexyl phthalate (MEHP), which is created through metabolic processes as a result of phthalates present in our bodies. 

In the past, studies have examined the results of phthalate exposure in rats and found that such exposure resulted in higher rates of pregnancy loss as well as smaller litters.  This study, however, is the first to look at phthalate exposures in humans. The study began by collecting several urine samples from couples attempting to get pregnant for the first time.  These samples were collected during the women’s last cycle and 10 days after their last cycle before becoming pregnant.  The researchers then tested these samples for levels of different forms of phthalates and collected data on those who experienced pregnancy loss.

After data was collected, the researchers compared the number of women who were exposed to high levels of phthalates to the number of women who experienced pregnancy loss.  Of the 148 women in the study, 48 had experienced pregnancy loss, with 32 of those lost pregnancies were during the first week of pregnancy.  When this data was compared to levels of various phthalates in the urine samples, the researchers found that the women with high levels of MEHP in their urine during the time of conception were more likely to experience pregnancy loss than women with low levels of MEHP in their urine.  However, they found no connection between MEHP levels in urine during their previous cycles and pregnancy loss.  These results lead researchers to deduce that MEHP levels matter the most at the particular time of conception.

For more information on this study, see resources listed below.

While these results are very interesting, this is the first study of phthalates and pregnancy loss involving humans so there is a need for independent studies to test and corroborate these findings.

~ Jessica

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