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Study: BPA Exposure in Womb Linked to Kids' Behavior Problems

But Researchers Caution Study Only Shows Association, Not Cause and Effect

Childhood Behavior and BPA continued...

"The results suggest that these gestational exposures, or the mother's exposure, are more important than the childhood exposures," says researcher Joe Braun, MSPH, PhD, research fellow in the department of environmental health at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Braun says girls may be more susceptible to the effects of BPA during their development than boys. He's not entirely sure why, but he has a theory.

"We know that sex steroids are important in the development of masculine and feminine behaviors, and it's possible that BPA is acting like a weak estrogen," Braun says.

"In rodents, estrogen actually masculinizes the brain," he says, which could explain the sex differences they saw in hyperactivity. Hyperactivity tends to be more common in boys than girls.

Second Opinion

"It's definitely a study that's worth paying attention to," says Amir Miodovnik, MD, an attending pediatrician at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. "But you can't take away from it that a child exposed to BPA problems in the womb is going to have behavioral problems. It's not clear-cut like that."

Miodovnik has also studied childhood exposure to BPA and its associations with behavior, but he was not involved in the current research.

"It's important in terms of corroborating some of the animal studies that have found effects. And there are many animal studies that have found effects at low levels. And here we're finding effects at levels that are found in the normal population."

But the behavioral changes documented in the study were small, and "how that applies to an individual child is difficult to say," Miodovnik says. They may not make a real difference in a child's life, he notes, in the long run.

Another expert has a slightly different perspective.

"This study raises further concerns about the subtle, but nonetheless measurable adverse effects of BPA exposure," says Andrew Adesman, MD, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Steven and Alexandra Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York in New Hyde Park.

"Consumers in general should try to minimize exposure to this chemical," he says.

Studies have shown that most of an average person's individual exposure to BPA comes from diet. Many frozen, processed, and canned foods are contained in packaging that contains BPA.

The good news, researchers say, is that BPA is quickly eliminated from the body.

A study published in March showed that children and adults who ate only fresh, organic, and unpackaged foods for three days reduced their BPA levels by 66%.

Reducing Exposure to BPA

Until more is known, Braun says, pregnant women shouldn't drive themselves crazy trying to stay away from BPA.

"Consumers, if they're concerned, can try to reduce their exposure by reducing their exposure to packaged and canned foods but at the same time, they should still maintain a balanced and healthy diet.

"There are canned foods that are good for you," Braun tells WebMD. "Those are healthy foods and you shouldn't be replacing them with hamburgers and French fries."

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