BPA is an industrial chemical that has been used to make plastics and resins since the 1960’s. It’s an endocrine disruptor that mimics estrogen, and it has been linked to breast cancer, obesity, infertility, early puberty in girls, and increased risk for diabetes.
BPA has also been linked to depression and hyperactivity in girls whose mothers were exposed to the chemical during pregnancy. A new study sheds more light on the potential harm posed by prenatal BPA exposure, but this time the research focuses on the substance’s influence on body weight.
Researchers from Columbia University, Johns Hopkins, and the CDC tracked 369 mother-child pairs from the 3rd trimester of pregnancy until the children reached age 7. BPA levels in the mothers’ urine during pregnancy were measured. The height, weight, waist circumference, and body fat of the children as they aged were also measured, as well as their BPA levels.
The team found measurable levels of BPA in the blood of 94% of the pregnant women in the study. Frighteningly, the higher the mother’s BPA exposure was during pregnancy, the more signs of obesity (based on waist circumference compared with height) the girls showed at age 7.
Senior author Andrew Rundle, DrPH, Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Co-Director of the Obesity Prevention Initiative at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, said:
“The evidence that prenatal BPA exposure is associated with measures of obesity in children may be an important underlying factor in the obesity epidemic.”
No such association was found for boys; nor was there any association between BPA levels in the children’s urine and obesity as they grew.
In 2012, the FDA ordered baby bottle and sippy cup makers to stop using BPA in their products. Many companies had already stopped using the chemical.
However, it’s still easy for children and adults to be exposed to BPA as it’s still found in many products, including plastic food containers, plastic water bottles, cash register receipts, and metal food cans in which BPA is used as a liner.
Read: 7 Nasty Effects Of BPA
Humans are most susceptible to the effects of BPA during the fetal period, and since boys and girls produce hormones differently, hormone-disrupting chemicals might affect them differently. 
Previous studies have linked prenatal BPA exposure to higher body fat in children up to age 4. Earlier studies in older girls have also found a link between childhood exposure to the chemical and obesity. Furthermore, BPA has been linked in previous studies to neurodevelopmental disorders and wheezing in children.
Lead researcher Lori Hoepner, DrPH, an investigator at the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health and Assistant Professor of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, said:
“This study provides evidence that prenatal exposure to BPA may contribute to developmental origins of obesity as determined by measures of body fat in children as opposed to the traditional indicator of body mass index, which only considers height and weight.”
BPA is one of the most widely used plasticizers in the world, which makes it very difficult to avoid. However, you can greatly reduce your exposure to BPA by choosing fresh or frozen foods instead of canned food; using stainless steel, glass, or porcelain, food containers, especially for hot food or liquids; and avoiding plastic containers numbers 3 and 7. 
“Pregnant women, women planning pregnancy, and mothers should talk to their health care provider about strategies for healthy eating and lifestyle in order to reduce exposures to BPA.” 
The study appears online in Environmental Health Perspectives.
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||Julie Fidler is a freelance writer, legal blogger, and the author of Adventures in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two ridiculously spoiled cats. She occasionally pontificates on her blog.