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New Study Finds Miscarriage Risk Increases With BPA Exposure
Women exposed to high levels of bisphenol A (BPA) early in their pregnancy had an 83 percent greater risk of miscarriage than women with the lowest levels, according to new research.
The scientists said their new study adds to evidence that low levels of the ubiquitous chemical, used to make polycarbonate plastic and found in some food cans and paper receipts, may affect human reproduction.
The study involved 115 pregnant women who had visited a Stanford University fertility clinic within about four weeks of fertilization. The more BPA detected in the women’s blood, the higher their risk of miscarriage, according to the researchers.
“Couples suffering from infertility or recurrent miscarriages would be best advised to reduce BPA exposure because it has the potential to adversely affect fetal development,” wrote the scientists, led by Dr. Ruth Lathi, a Stanford University associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology. The study was published in the journal Fertility and Sterility.
However, the new study doesn’t mean BPA causes miscarriages. The findings were based on one or two blood tests early during the pregnancies, and more women would need to be tested to see if the results are replicated.
In addition, the women who participated were likely at high reproductive risk because they had been treated at a fertility center. That means the findings may not be relevant for the general population, said Emily Barrett, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Rochester’s Medical Center. She was not involved in the study.
Sixty-eight of the 115 women had miscarriages, which is roughly three times the rate of the U.S. population.
“This is not a typical population since these are women seeking fertility care,” Barrett said.
Despite the limitations, this is “another piece of evidence” linking the chemical to pregnancy problems, Barrett said.
In 2005, a smaller study in Japan found that 45 women who had three or more first-trimester miscarriages had three times more BPA in their blood than 32 women with no history of pregnancy problems.
For the new study, the scientists divided the women into four groups based on their BPA measurement, then compared their miscarriage rates. The women with the highest exposures had an 83 percent higher risk of miscarriage, while those in the second and third groups had increased risks of 58 percent and 30 percent.
“This study has the same flaw as other studies that attempt to measure BPA in blood at a single point in time and statistically associate that limited data with a health effect—in this case, miscarriage,” said Kathryn St. John, a spokesperson for the American Chemistry Council, which represents chemicals manufacturers, in a prepared statement.
Most miscarriages occur within the first seven weeks of pregnancy. The early stage tested in the new study is “certainly one period that’s very important” for measuring exposures, Barrett said.
About 90 percent of people tested in the U.S. have BPA in their bodies.
Barrett said that most researchers agree the current standard for measuring BPA in people is testing urine for total BPA, which includes both free form and conjugated. Free BPA is the form that is estrogenic and acts on the body. Lathi and colleagues measured only the conjugated form in blood.
University of Missouri professor Frederick vom Saal, a co-author of the study, said there are pros and cons to any measurement of BPA in people. Blood samples are more likely to be contaminated with free BPA from the environment but the study avoided that problem by looking only at conjugated, he said.
There is an ongoing scientific dispute over whether traces of BPA can harm people. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said BPA is safe at the low amounts that people are exposed to through foods. The agency released a study earlier this year that found BPA doesn’t affect the health of rats fed low doses. However, some academic researchers have called the FDA study flawed.
In 2008, a federal agency, the National Toxicology Program, determined that there was “negligible concern” that exposure of pregnant woman to BPA will harm fetuses or infants. Two years later, the Environmental Protection Agency announced an action plan to further investigate BPA, declaring it a chemical of concern.
Known risk factors for miscarriage include obesity, problems with the mother’s hormones, reproductive organs and immune system, smoking and drug and alcohol abuse.
Lathi and colleagues did not investigate how the women may have been exposed to BPA. She said that in the future the researchers would like to examine whether avoiding BPA during pregnancy lowers miscarriage risk.
“These are just regular pregnant women with what we think is regular exposure,” Lathi said. “There is nothing to make us think that our patients are more highly exposed than anyone else in the U.S.”
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A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.
"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."
The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.
My god, White Island volcano in New Zealand erupted today for first time since 2001. My family and I had gotten off it 20 minutes before, were waiting at our boat about to leave when we saw it. Boat ride home tending to people our boat rescued was indescribable. #whiteisland pic.twitter.com/QJwWi12Tvt— Michael Schade (@sch) December 9, 2019
Michael Schade / Twitter
At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.
The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.
Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.
"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."
Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.
Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.
"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.
"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."
The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.
Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.
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