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Prenatal exposure to phthalates linked to decreased mental and motor development
Date:9/5/2011

A newly published study by researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health heightens concerns over the potential health effects on children of a group of ubiquitous chemicals known as phthalates. Phthalates are a class of chemicals that are known to disrupt the endocrine system, and are widely used in consumer products ranging from plastic toys, to household building materials, to shampoos.

Recent studies of school-age children have provided preliminary links between prenatal exposure to phthalates and developmental problems. The study is the first to examine prenatal phthalate exposure and the prevalence of mental, motor and behavioral problems in children who are in the preschool years. The paper, published online today in Environmental Health Perspectives, adds to rising concerns about the risks associated with exposures to phthalates during pregnancy.

The study followed the children of 319 non-smoking inner-city women who gave birth between 1999 and 2006. Researchers, led by Robin M. Whyatt, DrPH, deputy director of the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health, measured metabolites of four phthalates in maternal urine as markers of prenatal exposure. The phthalates were: di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate, di-isobutyl phthalate, di-n-butyl phthalate and butylbenzyl phthalate. The study evaluated associations between prenatal exposures to these phthalates and child mental, motor and behavioral development at age 3 years.

The scientists used the Bayley Scales of Infant Development II, a well validated developmental test, to assess the mental and motor development of the children. Behavioral problems were measured by asking mothers to complete the widely used 99-item Child Behavior Checklist (for ages 1-5 years). Overall, researchers found that higher prenatal exposures to two of the phthalates significantly increased the odds of motor delay, an indication of potential future problems with fine and gross mo
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Contact: Stephanie Berger
sb2247@columbia.edu
212-305-4372
Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health
Source:Eurekalert

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