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Childhood Asthma Linked to Commonplace Chemical

Kids exposed to a commonplace chemical early in life are more likely to have asthma, according to a study published today.

The study, which tested 568 children and their mothers in New York City, is the first to link early childhood exposure to bisphenol A (BPA) with asthma. Studies with lab mice, however, have found a similar link.

“We saw increased risk of asthma at fairly routine, low doses of BPA,” said Dr. Kathleen Donohue, an instructor in clinical medicine at Columbia University Medical Center and lead author of the study, which was published online in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 

A Columbia University research team reported that children with higher levels of BPA at ages 3, 5 and 7 had increased odds of developing the respiratory disease when they were between 5 and 12. The children studied had roughly the same concentrations of BPA as the average for U.S. kids.

BPA is used to make polycarbonate plastics and is found in some canned foods and beverages, paper receipts and dental sealants. More than 90 percent of Americans have traces in their bodies.

Medical experts for decades have been trying to figure out what has caused asthma rates to skyrocket in children throughout much of the world, beginning in the 1980s. Many suspect that it might have something to do with early-life exposures and changes in immune systems causing inflammation.

One out of every 10 U.S. children has been diagnosed with asthma, and the rate is even higher for black children – one out of every six, according to 2011 data from the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention.

The study doesn’t mean BPA causes asthma or wheezing. But “it’s an important study because we don’t know a lot right now about how BPA affects immune response and asthma,” said Kim Harley, an associate professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who studies environmental chemicals and children’s health, but did not participate in the new research.

“They measured BPA at different ages, measured asthma and wheeze at multiple points, and still found consistent associations,” she said.

The researchers measured BPA in the women’s urine toward the end of their pregnancies. Once born, their children were then tested for BPA at ages 3, 5 and 7. Then they were tested for asthma and wheezing between the ages of 5 and 12…

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