Link found between food packaging and miscarriages
David Adam, science correspondent
Scientists in have found evidence of a link between recurrent miscarriages and a chemical widely used in food packaging.
Women with a history of miscarriages were found to have higher levels of the compound in their bodies. The scientists admit that their findings are based on a small preliminary study, but say further research into the chemical's effect on human reproduction is "definitely warranted".
The compound is called bisphenol-A or BPA. It is used in plastic food containers, cans and dental sealants. Research suggests it leaches from products and is absorbed in low concentrations by the human body. A separate study last month suggested it might be a contributing factor to women developing breast cancer.
In the research, published in the journal Human Reproduction, a team led by Mayumi Sugiura-Ogasawara of the obstetrics and gynaecology department at Nagoya City University Medical School examined 45 patients who had suffered miscarriages three or more times and 32 women with a history of successful pregnancies. They found average BPA levels were more than three times higher in those women who had miscarried.
Thirty-five of the women became pregnant during the study and 17 miscarried again. When the scientists examined the miscarried foetuses, they found that four had the wrong number of chromosomes. Research in 2003 showed exposure to BPA triggered similar abnormalities in mice.
The scientists say the latest study provides "the first concrete evidence that high exposure to BPA may be associated with recurrent miscarriage".
Environmentalists want tighter restrictions on BPA and similar "gender bending" chemicals. Elizabeth Salter-Green of the environment group WWF-UK said: "This study shows the importance of taking action to eliminate exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals such as bisphenol-A. WWF would like to see a ban on the use of bisphenol-A in food packaging, baby bottles and in any other product where it will be a source of human and wildlife exposure."
Alan Boobis, a toxicologist at Imperial College London who sits on the Food Standards Agency committee on toxicity, said a solid link between the chemical and miscarriages could only be established by larger studies. "This certainly raises questions but it only really establishes a hypothesis that needs to be pursued further. It would be earth shattering if this is correct, but it was a small study and needs to be followed up."