Pregnancy & Chemical Exposure

Bisphenol A Exposure During Pregnancy

Todays society is bombarded with an array of chemicals daily, often the harmful effects are unknown until the chemical causes health problems. One of these chemicals, Bisphenol A (BPA) is a widespread endocrine-disrupting chemical used as the base compound in the manufacturing of some plastics, it is often used in food and beverage packaging. BPA exposure has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes. While exposure to these chemicals is never ideal the effects that they could have on mother and fetus needs to be explored further.

Chemical structure of bisphenol A.

Chemical structure of bisphenol A. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A study conducted to examine the action of environmentally relevant doses on BPA on glucose metabolism in mice during pregnancy and the impact of BPA exposure on the females later in life. The authors of the study also investigated the consequences of in utero exposure to BPA on metabolic parameters and pancreatic function in the offspring. The study found that BPA exposure during gestation had long-term consequences for the mothers, at four months postpartum, treated females weighed more than untreated females and had higher plasma insulin, leptin, triglyceride, and glycerol levels and greater insulin resistance.  As for the male offspring, at six months of age, the males exposed in utero had reduced glucose tolerance, increase insulin resistance, and altered blood parameters compared with the offspring of unexposed mothers. (Alonso-Magdalena, et al., 2010).

The “developmental” or “fetal” origin of adult disease hypothesis states that environmental factors act early in life to program the risks of developing chronic diseases in adult life. In this study, the metabolic effects observed in mice prenatally exposed to BPA may be due to two factors: abnormal hormonal environment and altered glucose metabolism. This is most likely because the fetus is exposed to altered maternal metabolism since BPA crosses the placenta and because glucose tolerance, insulin, and leptin signaling during gestation are important for fetal growth. This study concluded that the test results suggest that the endocrine disruptor BPA should be evaluated as a possible risk factor for gestational diabetes, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease associated with metabolic syndrome. The findings also suggest that fetal exposure predisposed males to type 2 diabetes in adulthood. (Alonso-Magdalena, et al., 2010)

Too often consumers do not research the products they use or the potential health risks that they pose. This study showed how even exposure during gestation could predispose males to health problems as adults. BPA has been used in the past in products such as baby bottles and sippy cups, while this practice is slowly changing, the FDA still regards BPA as safe. Consumers have the power to change this practice and to demand products that are safe and do not pose such health risks.


Alonso-Magdalena, P., Vieira, E., Soriano, S., Menes, L., Burks, D., Quesada, I., & Nadal, A.. (2010). Bisphenol A Exposure during Pregnancy Disrupts Glucose Homeostasis in Mothers and Adult Male OffspringEnvironmental Health Perspectives, 118(9), 1243-50.  Retrieved April 8, 2011, from Health Module. (Document ID: 2150863971).

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