A study of expectant mothers has revealed that a group of common environmental contaminants called phthalates, present in many industrial and consumer products including everyday personal care items, may play a role in premature births.
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, has found that women who deliver prematurely have, on average, up to three times the phthalate level in their urine compared to women who carry to term.
Professors John Meeker, Rita Loch-Caruso and Howard Hu of the SPH Department of Environmental Health Sciences and collaborators from the National Institute of Public Health in Mexico and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed data from a larger study directed by Hu, which follows a cohort of Mexican women recruited during pre-natal visits at one of four clinics of the Mexican Institute of Social Security in Mexico City.
Meeker and colleagues looked at data from 60 women: 30 who carried to term and 30 who delivered prematurely (defined as less than 37 weeks gestation).
They analyzed urine samples collected during the third trimester and compared them to the control group who carried to term. They found significantly higher phthalate metabolite levels in the women who delivered prematurely.
Premature birth is a significant risk factor for many health problems in childhood that can persist into adulthood, Meeker says.
The study is available online will appear in a later printed issue of Environmental Health Perspectives.