Exposure to phthalate may shorten pregnancy

Babies exposed to a common plasticizer before birth spend a week less in the womb than do those without evidence of exposure, researchers have found.

In their study, pediatrician Giuseppe Latini of Perrino Hospital in Brindisi, Italy, and his colleagues tested blood from 84 newborns’ umbilical cords for the presence of di-(2-ethylhexyl)-phthalate (DEHP) and mono-ethylhexyl-phthalate (MEHP). The body converts DEHP, an ingredient in plastics used to make toys and wrap foods, into MEHP.

The researchers looked for relationships among factors that included blood concentrations of the phthalates, the pregnancy’s duration, and the infant’s birth weight.

In an upcoming Environmental Health Perspectives, the researchers report that the 65 newborns in the study who had detectable blood concentrations of MEHP were born after an average of 38.2 weeks in the womb. The 19 infants without detectable MEHP concentrations were born an average of 39.4 weeks after conception.

The researchers didn’t find statistical evidence of a relationship between MEHP and low birth weight or any other deleterious outcome, however.


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