BPA During Pregnancy Linked to Toddler Behavior Problems

This is the 3D chemical structure of BPA, a chemical found to cause behavioral issues in toddlers who were exposed in the womb. Photo by: Edgar181

A recent Bisphenol A study, published in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, links BPA exposure during pregnancy and toddler emotional/behavioral problems.

What is Bisphenol A (BPA)?

Bisphenol A, also known as BPA, is a chemical that is used to make hard plastic food and drink containers. Reusable cups, baby bottles, and the lining of metal food and beverage containers can have trace amounts of BPA, reports the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  According to Environment California, numerous studies have linked BPA to health problems such as breast and prostate cancers, obesity, attention deficit disorder, hyperactivity disorder, brain damage, altered immune system, lower sperm counts and early onset puberty.

Study linking behavior and BPA

There have been a wide variety of studies linking these health effects and BPA exposure. However, this is the first study to link behavior problems to BPA exposure during pregnancy.  On October 24, 2011, the newest BPA study, “Impact of Early-Life Bisphenol A Exposure on Behavior and Executive Function in Children” from the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, found that exposure to BPA while in utero caused behavioral issues by the time the baby girls were three years old.

A cohort of 244 mothers and their three year-old children were part of the study. Urine samples were collected when the mothers were pregnant, and after birth. Urine samples were also taken from their children at ages one, two, and three. The researchers found that mothers who had the highest levels of BPA in their urine were more likely to have toddlers with aggression, depression, and poor emotional control.

Girls were more affected by BPA exposure than boys, perhaps because BPA acts as the female hormone, estrogen.  According to Harvard Gazette, Dr. Joe Braun, research fellow in environmental health at Harvard School of Public Health, who assisted in the study, told the press:

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“None of the children had clinically abnormal behavior, but some children had more behavior problems than others. Thus, we examined the relationship between the mom’s and children’s BPA concentrations and the different behaviors.”

As a result of this study, doctors may advise pregnant women to limit their exposure to products with BPA, but the benefit of reducing the exposure to BPA is still unclear, and more research is needed.

Parents and Bisphenol A: Action Plan

Many baby companies are now producing BPA-free products. Photo by: Alicia Voorhies.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there are actions you can take to reduce your child’s exposure to Bisphenol A.

*First, throw out all scratched baby bottles, feeding cups and food storage containers. If the products do contain BPA, they may release trace amounts of BPA into foods and beverages.

*Secondly, be aware of how hot the baby bottles become when you’re heating them up. Traces of BPA can leak from bottles when temperatures reach the boiling point. The best way to warm up baby bottles is to run warm water over the outside of the bottle.

*Finally, if you’re not breastfeeding, consider choosing powdered formula over liquid. The liquid, ready-to feed formula contains small amounts of BPA, but the powdered formula has not been found to have any BPA.

Bisphenol A During Pregnancy

In light of this new study, if you are pregnant, or are planning to become pregnant, speak with your doctor about ways to limit your exposure to Bisphenol A, in order to reduce the effects of BPA exposure in your unborn child.


U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Bisphenol A (BPA) Information for Parents. Accessed on March 15, 2013.

Harvard Gazette. Gestation BPA exposure growing concern. Accessed on March 15, 2013.

Environment California. Bisphenol A Overview. Accessed on March 15, 2013.

Braun J, Kalkbrenner A,  Calafat A, Yolton K, et. al. Impact of Early-Life Bisphenol A Exposure on Behavior and Executive Function in Children. Pediatrics 2011; peds.2011-1335; published ahead of print October 24, 2011, doi:10.1542/peds.2011-1335. Accessed on March 15, 2013.

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