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Plastics Found on Everyday Products Could Be Causing a Rise in Premature Births, Study Suggests

The chemicals, also known as phthalates, can impact the placenta amid pregnancy, the study said

<p>Getty Images</p> A premature baby.

Getty Images

A premature baby.

Synthetic chemicals found on everyday products could be behind an increase in premature births, a new study suggests.

Earlier this week, a study was published in the journal Lancet Planetary Health, which gathered data from the National Institutes of Health's Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) program.

Looking at data from the program between 1998 and 2022, including gestational age at birth, birth weight, birth length and birth weight for gestational age, the study found an example that nearly 57,000 preterm births occurred in the United States in 2018, potentially due to the chemicals, also known as phthalates.

Prior research suggested that the chemicals can act as hormone disruptors and impact the placenta, which aids a developing fetus in the womb.

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<p>Getty Images</p> A pregnant women holding her stomach.

Getty Images

A pregnant women holding her stomach.

Related: Celebrity Parents Who've Opened Up About Their Premature Births and Babies

According to CNN, phthalates are added to consumer products in an effort to make plastic harder to break.

Phthalates are commonly found in vinyl flooring, furniture and shower curtains, plus rain and stain-resistant products, as well as clothing and shoes, the outlet said.

Personal care products, including shampoo, soap, hairspray and nail polish, also feature the chemical, per CNN, as they make fragrances last longer.

Various other studies have similarly found a connection between phthalates and other health ailments, such as childhood obesitycardiovascular issues and cancer.

<p>Getty Images</p> A premature baby.

Getty Images

A premature baby.

Related: World's Most Premature Baby, Who Had 0% Chance of Survival, Celebrates 1st Birthday: 'Miraculous'

In a statement to CNN, lead study author Dr. Leonardo Trasande, the director of environmental pediatrics at NYU Langone Health, said, "Phthalates can also contribute to inflammation that can disrupt the placenta even more and set the steps of preterm labor in motion."

He added, "Studies show the largest association with preterm labor is due to a phthalate found in food packaging called Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, or DEHP. In our new study, we found DEHP and three similar chemicals could be responsible for 5% to 10% of all the preterm births in 2018. This could be one of the reasons why preterm births are on the rise.”

The American Chemistry Council, which represents the plastics industry, hit back at the claims made in the study in its own statement.

“This study does not show adverse consequences. Establishing association does not equal establishing a causal relationship," the council said, per USA Today. “Studies such as these have been criticized for lack of scientific quality, credibility, and reliability."

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