Prenatal Exposure to Phthalates Linked to Language Delay

TUESDAY, Oct. 30, 2018 — Prenatal exposure to phthalates is associated with language delay in children, according to a study published online Oct. 29 in JAMA Pediatrics.

Carl-Gustaf Bornehag, Ph.D., from Karlstad University in Sweden, and colleagues used data from the Swedish Environmental Longitudinal Mother and Child, Asthma and Allergy (SELMA) study and The Infant Development and Environment Study (TIDES), conducted in the United States, to examine the correlation between prenatal phthalate exposure and language development. Data were included for 963 and 370 mothers and their children from SELMA and TIDES, respectively.

The researchers found that the prevalence of language delay was 10 percent in both cohorts, with higher rates of delay in boys than girls (13.5 versus 6 percent in SELMA; 12.4 versus 7.6 percent in TIDES). In both cohorts, crude analyses revealed a significant correlation between prenatal urinary metabolite levels of dibutyl phthalate and butyl benzyl phthalate and language delay in children at a median age of 30 months to 37 months. A doubling of prenatal exposure of dibutyl phthalate and butyl benzyl phthalate metabolites increased the odds ratio for language delay, with statistically significant results in the SELMA study (odds ratios, 1.29 and 1.26) in adjusted analyses. In the SELMA study, a doubling of prenatal monoethyl phthalate exposure was correlated with an increase in the odds ratio for language delay (odds ratio, 1.14; 95 percent confidence interval, 1 to 1.31; P = 0.05).

“Given the prevalence of prenatal exposure to these chemicals and the importance of language development, pregnant women should try to reduce their exposure to phthalates,” one of the co-authors said in a statement.

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Posted: October 2018

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