"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Common chemicals in food packaging are linked to premature birth

February 7, 2024 – Chemicals used to make on a regular basis plastic items akin to food containers and cosmetic packaging could also be linked to the rise in premature births, in line with a brand new study.

Premature births are those who occur before the thirty seventh week of pregnancy and CDC warned Earlier this month they said they were on the rise.

For the study, researchers searched for chemicals called phthalates in about 5,000 U.S. moms by analyzing their urine at various times during their pregnancy. Phthalates have long been known to affect hormone functions, which might sometimes also affect other body processes.

The Results were published within the monthly issue of The Lancet Planetary Health. The researchers concluded that exposure to several specific phthalates can significantly increase the chance of preterm birth and may very well be related to as much as 56,595 preterm births per 12 months.

The report's authors specifically urged manufacturers to search for an alternate chemical to a phthalate called DHEPwhich helps make plastic flexible and is utilized in a variety of products including furniture upholstery, garden hoses, baby pants, toys and medical tubing.

“Our findings reveal the enormous medical and financial burden of preterm birth that we believe is linked to phthalates and add to the wealth of evidence that these chemicals pose a serious threat to human health. There is a clear opportunity here to reduce these risks by doing both.” “We use safer plastic materials or reduce the use of plastic entirely whenever possible,” said the study's lead author, Leonardo Trasande, MD, in a opinion. (Trasande is a pediatrician at NYU Langone Health, a professor at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, and a renowned expert in children's environmental health.)

Among annual live births in the U.S., about 8% of babies are low birth weight and about 10% are premature, the authors noted. Low birth weight and low gestational age (the time between conception and birth) are known predictors of health problems both early in life and throughout a person's lifespan. According to NYU Langone Health, babies with low birth weight or short gestational age are at increased risk of poor academic performance later in life, as well as heart disease and diabetes.

The researchers sought to better understand possible links between phthalates and birth outcomes because the chemicals are known to “trigger inflammation and oxidative stress and are endocrine disruptors,” they wrote, adding that all three effects are known to interact in ways that affect the Birth can affect the placenta and cause pregnancy complications.

Overall, they found that the detection of phthalates in the pregnant women's urine was similar in concentration levels compared to values ​​previously found in other studies of women of childbearing age. Detection of high levels of specific phthalates varied among pregnant women based on their race or ethnicity, but no differences were found based on the sex of the baby.

The researchers said their findings were “very concerning,” particularly because some of the phthalates that their study linked to premature births are currently being used by food packaging manufacturers as alternatives to the already worrisome DHEP phthalate.

“The adverse consequences of chemically similar phthalates such as DEHP suggest the need to regulate chemicals with similar properties as a class,” the authors concluded.