U of I study addresses possible impact of phthalates on babies’ brain function

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CHAMPAIGN COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) — There is a popular product in your home that could impact your child’s brain function.

Exposure to phthalates–a class of synthetic chemicals used in several products–interferes with hormone function and development. Researchers believe when pregnant women become exposed, it could affect their infant’s brain function.

Phthalates are in so many personal care products like deodorant, lotion, makeup and even plastic food packaging and some medical equipment.

A study included hundreds of women starting from the early stages of pregnancy. The research team from the University of Illinois collected urine samples throughout to measure exposure to phthalates. Then once they gave birth, their babies were brought in around eight months.

The team used infrared tracking on the infant’s eyes while showing them to identical faces. They then switched one of the faces for a new one to see how long it would take a baby to register it as different.

“We look at each of their looks. How long are they? Fast information processors will take in the information more quickly and look away more quickly,” said Dr. Susan Schantz with the U of I Beckman Institute. She said the team chose this method because babies are naturally attracted to new things.

The women who had higher phthalate exposure during pregnancy saw their babies take longer to process the information.

Dr. Schantz also said the goal of this study was to influence policy and convince policymakers that phthalates need to be taken out of these everyday household products.

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