And, although in all cases urine concentrations of BPA were lower than those cited as potentially harmful by the U.S. Environmental and Protection Agency, they were still 16 to 32 times higher than those seen in children from the general population, Duty said.
Also, she added, "there is controversy about the effect of low-dose BPA exposures because some studies of exposure during vulnerable time periods of child development report effects on behavior and executive function in children and shortened [anal-genital] distance in male offspring."
Duty pointed out that the particular NICU she studied had made "a conscious voluntary decision to choose products without BPA whenever possible and still we found these associations with BPA."
It's unclear if there are alternative ways to make the devices needed to keep tiny, vulnerable babies alive.
Sharon Wilkerson, dean of the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Nursing, cited one study that had found differences in exposure levels between hospitals, "suggesting that some products may be better than others."
On the other hand, BPA strengthens plastic and plays a cementing role.
"We don't want a catheter in the vein to come apart because that would be worse than the BPA," Wilkerson said. "There's a fine line of making sure that as we try and get people to use less BPA in the production of products, we don't jeopardize the outcome from that."
A group representing the chemical industry said the study is not cause for alarm.
"This study found that exposures to BPA from the use of life-saving medical equipment on premature infants in the NICU were low and well within safe limits established by regulators," said Steven Hentges, of the Polycarbonate/BPA Global Group at the American Chemistry Council.
In a council news release, Hentges added that "the BPA exposures for all of the infants in this study are short-term
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