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22 February 2010
Asthma risk rises with BPA exposure
by George Atkinson

Previously linked to male reproductive disorders, obesity, abnormal brain development and prostate cancer, the ubiquitous plastic chemical bisphenol-A (BPA) has now been associated with an increased risk of asthma. BPA is used to make everything from plastic water bottles and food packaging to sunglasses and CDs.

The new study, in Environmental Health Perspectives, shows that a mother's exposure to BPA may also increase the odds that her children will develop asthma. Using a well-established mouse model for asthma, the investigators found that the offspring of female mice exposed to BPA showed significant signs of the disorder, unlike those of mice shielded from BPA.

"We gave BPA in drinking water starting a week before pregnancy, at levels calculated to produce a body concentration that was the same as that in a human mother, and continued on through the pregnancy and lactation periods," explained researcher Terumi Midoro-Horiuti, from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.

"What we were looking for is the asthma response to a challenge, something like what might happen if you had asthma and got pollen in your nose or lungs, you might have an asthma attack," added co-researcher Randall Goldblum. "All four of our indicators of asthma response showed up in the BPA group, much more so than in the pups of the non-exposed mice."

The research team said that although more work is needed to determine the precise mechanism of that response, it almost certainly has its roots in BPA's status as an "environmental estrogen." Environmental estrogens are natural or artificial chemicals from outside the body that when consumed mimic the hormone estrogen, activating its powerful biochemical signaling networks in often dangerous ways.

"Our results show that we have to consider the possible impact of environmental estrogens on normal immune development and on the development and morbidity of immunologic diseases such as asthma," Midoro-Horiuti said. "We also need to look at doing more epidemiological studies directly in humans, which is possible because BPA is so prevalent in the environment - all of us are already loaded with it."

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Source: University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston

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