Girls exposed to a 'gender-bending' chemical are more likely to have asthma, study claims

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Girls exposed to a ‘gender-bending’ chemical – often used in reusable water bottles – in the womb are more likely to have asthma, study claims

  • Bisphenol A is used widely in the manufacture of food and drink containers 
  • It has been linked to low sperm counts and infertility in men, as well as cancer
  • Experts say it also seems to have an effect on respiratory health in young girls

Girls exposed to a ‘gender-bending’ chemical commonly used in packaging while they are inside the womb grow up to have a higher risk of asthma, according to a study.

Bisphenol A, also known as BPA, is a chemical used widely in the manufacture of food and drink containers to make plastics more flexible and harder to break.

It has long been linked to low sperm counts and infertility in men, as well as breast and prostate cancer.

Now, researchers have discovered it also seems to have an effect on respiratory health in young girls.

They took urine samples from more than 3,000 pregnant women and, years later, collected data on the health of their children.

BPA is most widely found in refillable drinks bottles and food storage containers, as well as the protective coatings and linings for food and drinks cans

BPA is most widely found in refillable drinks bottles and food storage containers, as well as the protective coatings and linings for food and drinks cans

What is bisphenol A? 

Bisphenol A (BPA) is found in plastic containers and water bottles, on the inside of food cans and in till receipts.

The chemical, used since the 1960s to make certain types of plastic, mimics the female sex hormone oestrogen.

Tiny amounts of the chemical can be transferred from packaging into food and drinks. 

It has been linked to low sperm counts and infertility in men, as well as breast and prostate cancer.

The chemical is banned in Europe from use in baby bottles and plastic receipts.

France has gone one step further and banned its use in all food packaging, containers and utensils.

Results of the study revealed 90 per cent of the mothers had BPA present in their urine while they were pregnant.

And the higher the concentration, the more likely their female children were to grow up with respiratory problems.

The study found a twofold increase in the concentration of BPA was linked to a 13 per cent higher risk of respiratory symptoms such as asthma and wheezing in young girls.

However, the association was not found for boys.

First author Alicia Abellan, from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health, said: ‘Our results are in line with those of earlier studies, which have also reported that bisphenol A has a negative impact on respiratory health in childhood.

‘We believe that the effect may be due the fact that bisphenols can cross the placental barrier and interfere with the child’s respiratory and immune systems during the developmental phase.’

Alongside being able to cross the placenta, BPA has also been found to be present in breastmilk.

The chemical is banned in Europe from use in baby bottles and plastic receipts, while France has gone one step further and banned its use in all food packaging, containers and utensils.

Talking about the differences observed between boys and girls Maribel Casas, who also worked on the study, said: ‘Bisphenols are endocrine disruptors and can interfere with sex hormones.

‘As our findings suggest, this may give rise to differences in the effects they have depending on the sex of the person exposed.’

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