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Exposure to Phthalates in Womb May Shorten Gestation

Authors say more research needed; results may mean adverse health effects in newborns

MONDAY, Nov. 30 (HealthDay News) -- Women who are exposed to di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP) during the third trimester of pregnancy may give birth earlier than their non-exposed counterparts, according to a study in the December issue of Pediatrics.

Robin M. Whyatt, of Columbia University in New York City, and colleagues conducted a study of 311 pregnant African-American or Dominican women from New York City for whom samples of personal air, spot urine, or both were collected during their third trimester.

The presence of DEHP was detected in all the air samples, and two or more DEHP metabolites were detected in all the urine samples. There was an inverse association between concentrations and gestational age, the researchers found. When the scientists controlled for potentially confounding factors, they found that each one-logarithmic unit increase in specific gravity-adjusted mono(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate concentrations was associated with a 1.1 day decrease in gestational age, and that the highest quartile concentration was associated with a five-day shorter gestation period than the lowest quartile concentration.

"Given discrepancies between our findings and previous research, additional research is warranted, especially because the magnitude of the effects seen here might be associated with adverse health effects in newborns," the authors write. "It should be noted that the proportion of births with slightly shortened gestation has increased by 19.4 percent among black, white, and Hispanic groups in the past decade. In light of these research findings, the associations between prenatal DEHP exposure and shortened gestation seen here warrant follow-up study."

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