The study was published online in July 2022 in JAMA Pediatrics.
Millions of goods that people use every day include phthalates, which are normally used to harden plastics. However, a new investigation has confirmed that phthalates are linked to a higher risk of preterm deliveries.
In order to better understand the connection between phthalate exposure and pregnancy, the largest study to date on the subject examined data from more than 6,000 pregnant women in the United States. It was shown that preterm births were more likely in women whose urine had higher levels of phthalates. By definition, preterm births occur three weeks or more before the due date.
“Having a preterm birth can be dangerous for both baby and mom, so it is important to identify risk factors that could prevent it,” said senior study author Kelly Ferguson, an epidemiologist at the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS).
The researchers combined data from 16 studies conducted throughout the US between 1983 and 2018 for the study, which included information on the mothers’ time of delivery as well as their individual phthalate levels. Over 96 percent of those urine samples contained phthalate metabolites, and 539 (or 9%) of the women gave birth to preterm babies.
Four of the 11 phthalates that were found in the pregnant women were linked to a 14–16% higher risk of having a premature infant, according to the study.
The substance most frequently exposed to was a phthalate, which is frequently found in cosmetics like nail polish.
“It is difficult for people to completely eliminate exposure to these chemicals in everyday life, but our results show that even small reductions within a large population could have positive impacts on both mothers and their children,” first study author Barrett Welch, a postdoctoral fellow at NIEHS, said.
According to the researchers, cutting phthalates exposure in half might, on average, prevent premature births by 12%.
The treatments emphasised particular modifications, such as selecting personal care items free of phthalates, businesses voluntarily reducing the amount of phthalates in their goods, or regulatory measures that would limit exposure to these chemicals.
In the meanwhile, the researchers advised staying away from processed food and food that was wrapped in plastic and choosing fresh, home-cooked meals instead. Additionally, they advised picking phthalate-free, fragrance-free items. Exposure can also be reduced by limiting product use.