Phthalates, synthetic chemicals found in clear food packaging and personal care items, have been associated with an increased risk of preterm birth.
A new study backed by the National Institutes of Health and published in The Lancet Planetary Health found that phthalates likeDEHP (known as "everywhere chemicals"), common in items like reusable plastic food containers or shampoo bottles, induce inflammation, oxidative stress, and hormonal disruption.
“Inflammation and oxidative stress can induce endothelial activation common in pre-clampsia, and oxidative stress can induce placental insufficiency as well as pre-clampsia and premature rupture of membranes,” the study reads.
Researchers studied over 5,000 pregnant women in the U.S. by checking their urine for phthalates and found that the top 10% with the highest phthalate levels had a 50% greater chance of giving birth before week 37 of the pregnancy, compared to the lowest 10% who had no evident exposure to phthalates.
"Our results suggest substantial opportunities for prevention of preterm birth. The findings suggest adverse consequences of substitution of DEHP with chemically similar phthalates and the need to regulate chemicals with similar properties as a class,"the study reads.
Additionally, researchers noted that in 2018, about 56,595 preterm births could be attributed to phthalate exposure, which accounted for roughly 10% of all premature births in the country that year, and the associated costs of phthalate-related preterm births amounted to $3.84 billion that year.
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