More and more studies hint that a common chemical used in some plastics, store receipts, and canned food liners could be causing widespread damage.
The latest evidence comes as researchers at the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health found a connection between early childhood exposure to bisphenol A, or BPA, and asthma.
"Asthma prevalence has increased dramatically over the past 30 years, which suggests that some as-yet-undiscovered environmental exposures may be implicated. Our study indicates that one such exposure may be BPA," says lead author Kathleen Donohue, MD, an assistant professor of Medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and an investigator at the Center for Children's Environmental Health.
The study appeared in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology and looked at the data of nearly 570 women, determining BPA breakdown materials in their urine during the third trimester of pregnancy to determine exposure during pregnancy, when children are forming important immune system functions. They also tested the children born to those mothers when they were 3, 5, and 7 years old.
Taking other factors like secondhand smoke out of the equation so they wouldn't skew the results, research found that exposure to BPA in early childhood increases the risk of children experiencing wheeze or asthma.
The damage seemed to come when even very low levels of BPA were detected; that's problematic because almost everyone in the United States does have BPA in their systems.
Researchers could not exactly pinpoint how BPA and asthma may be connected, but they have a theory that warrants more research. "Other possible pathways may include changes to the innate immune system, but this remains an open question," says Dr. Donohue.
This study lends more evidence to previous studies that found a connection to BPA and respiratory problems. The chemical is also linked to type 2 diabetes, obesity, certain cancers, and behavioral problems.
For more information on BPA and its suspected health effects, check out The Truth about BPA.