Monday, November 24, 2008

Mothers Exposed to Fragrances in Hair Sprays and Nail Products Under Increased Risk for Male Infant Birth Defects

If you are pregnant, it would be best to stay away from those "smelly" hair sprays and nail polishes. That's because exposure to hair and nail products and even some deodorant sprays has been linked to hypospadias in newborn boys, according to a study accepted for publication today by the peer-reviewed journal, Environmental Health Perspectives. Hypospadias is a birth defect of the male urethra that results in an abnormally placed urinary opening. It is one of the most common urogenital congenital anomalies among baby boys.

Oftentimes, surgeons can not perform a circumcision when this defect is seen on the penis. The culprit in causing this condition appears to be products that contain chemicals known as phthalates.

Phthalates, predominantly diethyl phthalate (DEP) and dibutyl phthalate (DBP), are present in many cosmetics including deodorants, fragrances and -- especially -- nail and hair products. Studies have linked the phthalates or their ingredients with androgen-lowering activities, abnormal cell function, a decrease in the distance between the anus and the genitals in male infants, and reproductive tract malformations including the aforementioned hypospadias.

The case–control study included 471 hypospadias cases referred to surgeons, and 490 randomly selected birth controls, born over a 21-month period in South East England. Sons of women working in industries where there is exposure to phthalates—including hairdressers, beauty therapists, research chemists, line operators, pharmaceutical operators, electrical assemblers, and factory assistants—had a 2- to 3-times greater risk for hypospadias. The results add to growing evidence that endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) such as phthalates may play a role in hypospadias.

The study indicates, however, that folate supplementation in the first three months of pregnancy can actually reduce the risk of hypospadias by 36%.


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