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

tor coordination. Among girls, one of the phthalates was associated with significant decreases in mental development. Prenatal exposures to three of the phthalates were also significantly associated with behavior problems including emotionally reactive behavior, anxiety/depression, somatic complaints and withdrawn behavior. These effects differed somewhat by child sex but were statistically significant among both boys and girls.

"Our results suggest that prenatal exposure to these phthalates adversely affects child mental, motor and behavioral development during the preschool years," said Dr. Whyatt, who is also professor of clinical Environmental Health Sciences. "The results add to a growing public health concern about the widespread use of phthalates in consumer products."

The actual mechanisms by which phthalates may affect the developing brain are still being explored. Dr. Whyatt points out that phthalates are endocrine disrupterssubstances that affect hormone systems in the body. Evidence suggests that they impact the function of the thyroid gland. They also lower production of testosterone, which plays a critical role in the developing brain. "More work is needed to understand the biological effects of these commonplace substances," noted Dr. Whyatt.

"The results are concerning since increasing exposures from the lowest 25% to the highest 25% among the women in our study was associated with a doubling or tripling in the odds of motor and/or behavioral problems in the children," explained Pam Factor-Litvak, PhD, the senior epidemiologist on the study. "However, the number of children with clinical disorders was small," stated Dr. Factor-Litvak. The authors point out that the phthalate exposures among the women in the study varied widely reflecting the range of exposures found in the U.S. population.


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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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