Bisphenol A (BPA), an estrogen-like compound that has drawn increased scrutiny in recent years, has been linked to changes in thyroid hormone levels in pregnant women and newborn boys, according to a new study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley.
Normal thyroid function is essential to the healthy growth and cognitive development of fetuses and children. The new findings add to growing health concerns about BPA, a chemical found in hard plastics, linings of canned food, dental sealants, and sales receipts on thermal paper, which is coated with a chemical that changes color when exposed to heat. In July, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration officially banned the chemical in baby bottles and cups, something the industry began doing voluntarily in recent years in response to consumer concerns about the potential risks of BPA.
The researchers pointed out that several studies in recent years have linked lower thyroid hormone levels to delays in cognitive and motor development in young children. Two years ago, the same group of UC Berkeley researchers also found links between PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers), a class of flame retardants, and changes in thyroid hormone levels.
“There is good reason to be concerned about PBDEs and BPA, because both of these compounds are ubiquitous in our environment,” said Harley. “More than 90 percent of women of reproductive age have detectable levels of BPA in their urine, and some 97 percent of U.S. residents have detectable levels of PBDEs in their blood. Until we learn more about the human health effects of these chemicals, it would make sense to be cautious and avoid exposure when possible, particularly for those who are pregnant.”