BPA Exposure During Pregnancy Can Put Baby at Risk for Obesity

A new reason to avoid the chemical, found in plastic water bottles, metal food cans and thermal receipt paper. 

Pregnant Woman Drinking Water — BPA MilaPhotos/Shutterstock

We recently reported that BPA exposure can sabotage the success of your IVF attempt—now, a study has found that there might be another danger associated with exposure to the chemical during pregnancy: It can lead to obesity in your children. 

Researchers from Columbia's Center for Children's Environmental Health at the Mailman Institute School of Public Health studied BPA exposure by screening urine samples from pregnant women in their third trimester, then measured these results against their children's urine samples at ages 3 and 5. After also monitoring height and weight at ages 5 and 7, and waist circumference and fat mass at age 7, researchers found that prenatal exposure to BPA was positively associated with fat mass index in children by age 7. 

"This study provides evidence that prenatal exposure to BPA may contribute to developmental origins of obesity as determined by measures of body fat in children as opposed to the traditional indicator of body mass index, which only considers height and weight," study lead author Lori Hoepner, DrPH, said.

The researchers studied 369 mother-child pairs in New York City, and adjusted to account for socio-economic factors. About 94 percent of the women studied had BPA in their urine—not surprising since the chemical is used in everyday products like water bottles, metal food cans and thermal receipt paper. How exactly does BPA interact with our bodies? Researchers are concerned that the chemical acts as an "endocrine-disrupting chemical, a compound that mimics or blocks hormones produced by the body."

"The evidence that prenatal BPA exposure is associated with measures of obesity in children may be an important underlying factor in the obesity epidemic," says senior author Andrew Rundle, DrPH, associate professor of Epidemiology and co-director of the Obesity Prevention Initiative at the Mailman School. "Endocrine-disrupting chemicals like BPA may alter the baby's metabolism and how fat cells are formed early in life."

This isn't the first negative report on BPA. Previous studies found links between the chemical and asthma, ADHD, anxiety, depression and early puberty in girls, and diabetes, obesity and heart disease in adults. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences suggests reducing exposure to BPA by avoiding plastic containers and canned foods — opting instead for food and beverages that are stored in glass, porcelain and stainless steel containers.