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Study Finds Premature Birth Linked To Plastic Chemical Exposure, Even Before Conception

During pregnancy, you’re going to have to give up some of the vices you hold dear, and we’re not just talking contact sports and downhill skiing. We all know about the most obvious offenders— booze, smoking, deli meats—but there’s one you might not have familiarized yourself with as of late.

Plastic. Specifically, a chemical found in the material called phthalates, an additive that increases plastic’s flexibility, durability, and transparency. And it’s not as easy to avoid as say, sushi.

Earlier this month, Scientists discovered that exposure to phthalates could lead to an increased chance of preterm birth, even before conception. You can find phthalates in everything from food packaging and beauty products to plastic toys and garden hoses. The JAMA Open Network study tested 420 singleton births throughout the Boston area between 2005 and 2018 and found that 34 infants were born before the 37-week mark (a full-term pregnancy is 40 weeks, but the JAMA study used babies born before the 37-week mark to indicate preterm). Scientists measured the concentration of urine in parents at the beginning of the study, before ovulation for women, and men at the start of fertility treatments, some 419 mothers and 229 men, finding a 50-70% chance of risk for preterm birth.

10% of all pregnancies are delivered preterm, and there is an increasing amount of evidence that links air pollution and other environmental factors—like phthalates—to children born before the 37-week mark.

The solution? Stay away from plastic, I guess? But, if you can stay away from foods wrapped in plastic, microwaving plastic dishes, throwing plastic containers in the dishwashers, and purchase beauty products that come packaged in glass or aluminum, then you’re on the right track.

Which, you know, easier said than done.

Bill McCool is an editor and writer based out of Los Angeles. Though new to the world of design, he has always been a storyteller by trade and he seeks to inspire and cultivate a sense of awe with the work and artists he profiles. When he's not winning over his daughters with the art of the Dad joke, he is usually working on a pilot, watching the Phillies, or cooking an elaborate meal for his wife.

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