Researchers have found that pregnant women exposed to higher levels of endocrine disrupting emollients had steep spikes in blood pressure towards the end of pregnancy and elevated blood pressure for up to 6 years after giving birth.
Urine samples from 892 pregnant women contained traces of nine phthalates, a ubiquitous class of synthetic chemicals used in food production and packaging, cosmetics and other goods. Of 15 phthalate metabolites measured, all were detected in at least 86% of the samples and a majority in at least 99%, according to the researchers, who published their results in Environmental Health Perspectives on Dec. 22.
When first examining phthalate exposure and long-term postpartum blood pressure, the researchers said, statistical models showed that higher combined concentrations of the compounds “were associated with higher gestational blood pressure during mid-to-late pregnancy to 72 months postpartum”. You write.
The differences were small, about 2.4 mm Hg increases in postpartum systolic and diastolic blood pressure between the highest and lowest exposure quintiles. Nevertheless, the authors write: “Exposure to phthalates in earlier life stages can have lifelong consequences on the blood pressure course and possibly increase the risk of later chronic diseases such as high blood pressure.”
The women were recruited from the end of 2007 to 2011 as part of the PROGRESS study in Mexico City. Her mean age was 27.7 years and her BMI was 26.9 kg / m2. 74 percent (661) had a low socio-economic status.
Although the study doesn’t prove that phthalates increase blood pressure, the researchers say it supports the recommendation that pregnant women reduce exposure. Phthalates have been identified as a neurological development risk by the TENDR project, a collaboration between scientists and public health officials who raise awareness of environmental threats to child development.
Phthalates are probably more common and ubiquitous than we think, and reducing them, especially during pregnancy, is a major public health goal.
Study co-author Joseph M. Braun, RN, MSPH, PhD, associate professor of epidemiology and director of the Center for Children’s Environmental Health at Brown University School of Public Health, Providence, Rhode Island, said pregnant women should be advised take measures such as changing your diet and using a vacuum cleaner with a highly efficient particulate air filter – but there is only so much that an individual can do. “We need sensible regulations to protect people from these chemicals,” Braun told Medscape Medical News.
The dynamic mix is a challenge. The researchers found that four of these had potent effects: di (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), mono-2-ethyl-5-carboxypentyl terephthalate (MECPTP), monobenzyl phthalate (MBzP), and dibutyl phthalate (DBP).
“Of major public health concern,” they write, is MECPTP, which is increasingly being used to replace DEHP, which has been banned in certain products.
The study failed to explain diet and personal care product use, two main sources of phthalate exposure. Consumption of fast foods and packaged foods can skew results as both are linked to a sedentary lifestyle and a high-sodium diet related to high blood pressure, said Nathaniel DeNicola, MD, MSHP, environmental health expert for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, advising clinicians to advise patients about prenatal exposure to toxins.
However, DeNicola of Johns Hopkins Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, who was not involved in the study, said the results underscore that “phthalates are probably more abundant and ubiquitous than we think, and their reduction, especially during pregnancy, is one important public health goal. “
The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health. The authors and DeNicola have not disclosed any relevant financial relationships. Braun reported serving as an expert witness to plaintiffs in litigation related to perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances – contaminated drinking water, but received no direct compensation.
Mary Chris Jaklevic is a Midwestern-based health journalist.
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