On November 18, 2013 the press agency Agence France-Presse (AFP) reports in an article that women should avoid environmental phthalate exposure to reduce the risk of premature births. The article reacts to a new study published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal JAMA Pediatrics on November 18, 2013 which found pregnant women with high phthalate levels to face increased odds of prematurely giving birth (Ferguson et al. 2013). Using a case-control study design, the researchers from the University of Michigan and the Harvard Medical School, both U.S., found those women with elevated levels of di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) metabolites mono-(2-ethyl)-hexyl phthalate (MEHP) and mono-(2-ethyl-5-carboxypentyl) phthalate (MECPP), as well as mono-n-butyl phthalate (MBP) to be more likely of experiencing prematurity. Women with the phthalate concentration in the highest percentile were more than 5 times as likely to experience preterm labor. Overall phthalate levels of 130 cases and 352 randomly selected control participants admitted to the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston were evaluated. Urinary pththalte levels were measured on three occasions throughout pregnancy. Phthalates are used in toys, vinyl, medical supplies, pharmaceuticals and packaging including food packaging. AFP reports that preterm births are on the rise in the U.S. and quotes lead author Kelly Ferguson stressing that the study provides strong support for taking action to prevent or reduce phthalate exposure of pregnant women. 


Fergusen, K. et al. (2013). “Environmental phthalate exposure and preterm birth.” JAMA Pediatrics (published online November 18, 2013).

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Agence France-Presse (November 18, 2013). “Everyday chemical exposure linked to preterm births.