Ubiquitous manmade chemicals known as phthalates, found in some plastics, personal care products, and foods, among other things, are associated with increased preterm births, especially those involving spontaneous preterm deliveries, according to a study published online November 18 in JAMA Pediatrics.
Patients were included in a nested case-control study at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. The researchers selected 130 cases of preterm births and 352 randomly assigned control patients. Each phthalate metabolite was detected in at least 95% of urine samples, researchers wrote.
“Significantly elevated levels of mono-(2-ethyl)-hexyl phthalate (MEHP), mono-(2-ethyl-5-carboxypentyl) phthalate (MECPP), [sigma] DEHP, and MBP were observed in preterm cases compared with control participants (P<.05). Suggestively elevated levels of mono-(3-carboxypropyl) phthalate (MCPP) were also noted (P<.10),” the researchers wrote.
The results indicate a significant association between exposure to phthalates during pregnancy and preterm birth, consistent with previous studies.
In an accompanying editorial, Shanna H. Swan, PhD, of the department of preventive medicine at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai wrote that Ferguson and colleagues make an important public health contribution by demonstrating a sizable effect of phthalates.
“This article is important because of the public health significance of the outcome, the ubiquity of the exposure, the large sample size, and the mechanistic insights the analysis provides,” Swan wrote.