Exposure to toxic chemical used as plasticizers in a wide variety of personal care product and children's toys might contribute to low birth weight in infants, researchers have revealed.
Phthalate exposure can begin in the womb and has been associated with negative changes in endocrine function.
Low birth weight is the leading cause of death in children under 5 years of age and increases the risk of cardiovascular and metabolic disease in adulthood.
During the study, Dr. Renshan Ge of the Population Council and colleagues from Fudan University and Second Military Medical University in Shanghai examined 201 pairs of newborns and their mothers between 2005 and 2006.
Of the 201 infants studied, 88 were born with low birth weight. The researchers analyzed samples of the infants' meconium, the first bowel movement that occurs after birth, and cord blood to determine phthalate levels.
They found that Infants with low birth weight had consistently higher levels of phthalates.
"The results showed that phthalate exposure was ubiquitous in these newborns, and that prenatal phthalate exposure might be an environmental risk factor for low birth weight in infants," said Dr. Ge.
The study appears in the Journal of Pediatrics.