Study investigates if chemical triggers early labor

WASHINGTON – A new study by the University of Michigan finds that certain chemicals could be a contributing cause of preterm births.

The study looked at levels of phthalates, pronounced fal-lates, which are a class of chemicals used to make plastic items more flexible and as solvents in personal care items. They can be found in vinyl flooring and shower curtains plus perfumes and medications.

University researchers studied 482 pregnant women and tested their phthalate levels multiple times during their pregnancies. Women with the highest levels of exposure were two to five times more likely to have a preterm birth compared to women with the lowest levels of the chemical.

“This is by no means the cause of premature birth, but it is a possible contributor,” said study co-investigator Dr. Thomas McElrath in a statement. He said women shouldn’t be alarmed because more study is needed to determine if and why the chemicals might cause babies to be born early.

For example, it is possible the chemicals trigger stress or inflammation in the mother, leading to an early labor.

McElrath said women shouldn’t make any changes to their prenatal care and other researchers say the results are inconclusive as to whether avoiding personal care products like deodorant or lotions would help.

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