A new study published in JAMA Pediatrics reports that prenatal exposure to phthalates is significantly associated with language delay in children.
Prenatal exposure to phthalates has been associated with neurodevelopmental outcomes, but little is known about the association with language development.
Carl-Gustaf Bornehag and associates conducted a study to examine the association of prenatal phthalate exposure with language development in children in 2 population-based pregnancy cohort studies.
The study obtained data from the Swedish Environmental Longitudinal Mother and Child, Asthma and Allergy (SELMA) study conducted in prenatal clinics in Sweden and The Infant Development and the Environment Study (TIDES) conducted in the United States. The study participants included women in their first trimester of pregnancy.
This study included mothers and their children from both the SELMA study (n = 963) and TIDES (n = 370) who had complete data on prenatal urinary phthalate metabolite levels and language delay.
Mothers completed a language development questionnaire that asked the number of words their children could understand or use at a median of 30 months of age (SELMA) and 37 months of age (TIDES). The responses were categorized as fewer than 25, 25 to 50, and more than 50 words, with 50 words or fewer classified as language delay.
The key study analysis included are:
- 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.
- In the SELMA study, a doubling of prenatal monoethyl phthalate exposure was correlated with an increase in the odds ratio for language delay.
The study concluded that prenatal exposure to dibutyl phthalate and butyl benzyl phthalate was statistically significantly associated with language delay in children in both the SELMA study and TIDES.
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