Prenatal and childhood exposure to the synthetic plastic chemical Bisphenol A (BPA) could make the child more vulnerable to depression, anxiety, aggressive behaviour and hyperactivity disorder, a new study indicates.

Studies had previously linked BPA to chromosome damage and infertility issues.

Study details

Researchers from the University of California (US) and the CDC, investigated BPA concentration in the urine of 292 pregnant women who participated in the CHAMACOS study. Urine samples from the participants’ children were also collected once they reached age 5.

The children’s behaviour was evaluated at age 7 using the ‘Behaviour Assessment System for Children 2 (BASC-2)’ forms filled in by the mothers and teachers. At age 9, the children were assessed for ADHD using the Conners’ ADHD/DSM-IV Scales (CADS).

Study findings

Prenatal exposure

  • According to the BASC-2 scores, boys who had been exposed to higher BPA levels were the most affected by internalising problems.
  • Based on the mothers’ and teachers’ reports, exposure to higher BPA concentrations also seemed to cause more symptoms of depression and anxiety among the boys.
  • Only the teachers’ reports linked BPA to increased aggressive behaviour.
  • ADHD was not associated with prenatal BPA exposure according to the CADS scores.
  • Girls exposed to BPA in-utero did not seem to experience any behavioural issues.

Childhood exposure

  • The scientists found a strong link between exposure to BPA during childhood and hyperactivity and inattention in both girls and boys.
  • Higher exposure to BPA during childhood was associated with conduct problems in the girls only.

The reasons for these gender differences are unknown and the authors write that “additional information about timing of exposure and sex differences in effect is still needed.”

What you can do to protect your child (and yourself) from BPA

Attempting to completely eliminate BPA from your little one’s life is practically impossible but you can limit exposure to the chemical.

“I’d say the take-away is that exposure to BPA, such as in hard plastic containers or canned foods should be avoided if possible,” co-investigator Robert B. Gunier told Medscape Medical News.

Here’s how to do that:

  • Avoiding drinking water from plastic bottles and canned soft drinks and beers.
  • Select infant formula that comes in BPA-free cans. If you’re unsure, go for powdered formula instead of the liquid ones – experts suggest that the powdered versions absorb less BPA from the lining.BPA use in baby feeding bottles has been banned by European Union commission executive in 2011.
  • Use utensils, containers and tableware made of stainless steel, wood, glass or porcelain instead of plastic.
  • Do not expose plastics to heat as any BPA present could leach out – avoid using plastic containers in the microwave or dishwasher.
  • Discard plastic products that are chipped or cracked – these do not only promote germ proliferation but if they contain BPA, the chemical will leach out more easily.
  • Go for fresh or frozen foods instead of canned ones – cans are often lined with BPA.
  • Avoid using plastic with the recycle codes “3” or “7” as they probably contain BPA.

    Harley et al (2013) Prenatal and early childhood bisphenol A concentrations and behavior in school-aged children. Environ Res. 10.1016/j.envres.2013.06.004.