Phthalate Exposure Linked To Miscarriage

An epidemiological study has found an association between phthalate levels in the urine and an increased risk for early miscarriage.

AsianScientist (Sep. 15, 2015) – Approximately 40 percent of early miscarriages remain unexplained. Now, a group of scientists from Peking University suggest that exposure to phthalates–a synthetic chemical–is linked to cases of early miscarriage. Their work, published in Environmental Science & Technology, provides the first epidemiologic evidence that exposure to phthalates could increase risk of early miscarriage.

Phthalates are widely used to produce plastics, toiletries and cosmetics. As they do not form strong bonds with plastic polymers used in such products, they are readily released and distributed in the environment. Prior studies have established that phthalate metabolites are found in nearly all individuals sampled in various countries.

Phthalate exposure is known to cause problems in the reproductive system in both males and female animals. In humans, chronic high dose exposure to phthalates is associated with lower pregnancy rates and higher miscarriage. However, the study of the effects of environmental, everyday exposure to phthalates and miscarriage rates has not yet been established.

To address the question, the authors recruited more than 300 women who were either pregnant or just went through a miscarriage. They sampled their urine for phthalate metabolite levels and also conducted face-to-face questionnaire on their everyday exposure level to phthalates.

“Our study found that the levels of phthalates in the women who underwent miscarriage were significantly higher, and the risk of clinical pregnancy loss was associated with urinary concentration of phthalate metabolites,” Professor Hu Jianying, the corresponding author of the paper, told Asian Scientist Magazine.

In their face-to-face interviews about potential phthalates exposure, they found that women who underwent miscarriage tended to use a larger variety of cosmetics. This suggests that the higher phthalate levels found in the women who miscarried might have been due to their environmental exposure and lifestyle preferences.

“Phthalates are widely used in personal care products, such as body lotions, gels and shampoo and approved for uses in food packaging and processing materials that are in contact with food, such as films and plastic bags. Phthalates can also be used in residential building materials such as floorings, paints, carpet backings, wallpaper, and in PVC products,” explained Hu.

Since phthalate is almost ubiquitously found in the environment, the authors recommends to pregnant ladies to reduce, as much as possible, their exposure to phthalates. A way forward might be to reduce the kinds of cosmetics used during pregnancy.

The article can be found at: Mu et al. (2015) Levels of Phthalate Metabolites in Urine of Pregnant Women and Risk of Clinical Pregnancy Loss.


Source: Asian Scientist Magazine; Photo: Shutterstock.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

Ying Ying completed her PhD in neurobiology at the University of Basel, where she studied the role of bone morphogenetic protein in structural plasticity of neurons.

Related Stories from Asian Scientist