By David Derbyshire
A gender-bending chemical found in food packaging is linked to breathing problems in young babies, researchers have found.
A study showed pregnant mothers with the highest levels of bisphenol A in their bodies were twice as likely to have babies who suffer from wheezing in their first six months.
Wheezing in babies can be a symptom of lung damage, asthma, bronchitis, allergies or an infection.
Bisphenol A, or BPA, which is used to harden plastics, is one of the world’s most widely manufactured chemicals and can be found in dozens of everyday items including baby bottles, CD cases and food and drink packaging.
Because the chemical mimics oestrogen, many scientists believe it interferes with the way hormones are processed by the body.
The latest U.S. study looked at the BPA levels of 367 pregnant women, with researchers at Penn State College of Medicine measuring levels of the chemical in expectant mothers in the 16th and 26th week of pregnancy.
They found 99 per cent of women had measurable levels of the chemical in their bodies – and those with the highest levels in their 16th week were twice as likely to have babies who wheezed at six months old than women with the lowest levels.
Some experts suggest exposure to hormone-disrupting chemicals causes the most harm during a crucial window of development early on in pregnancy, and believe women of child-bearing age should avoid products containing BPA.
Elizabeth Salter-Green, director of the Chemicals, Health and Environment Monitoring Trust, said: ‘This new research adds further weight to the need to reduce our exposure to this chemical, particularly pregnant women.
It is the foetus developing in utero that is most vulnerable to BPA exposures.’
Last year Denmark became the first country in the EU to ban BPA in packaging for food and drink aimed at under-threes, while the EU itself voted to ban it from baby bottles last year. Canada and three U.S. states have also introduced restrictions.