Lead author Shanna H. Swan, a professor at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, said endocrine-disrupting chemicals such as bisphenol A and phthalates are linked to health problems including neuro-developmental delays, behavioral issues and fertility problems.
The chemicals are produced by the millions of pounds per year and found extensively in a range of products that contain certain plastics, Swan said.
Researchers from Mount Sinai School of Medicine and University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry examined individual behavioral choices and community lifestyle practices and analyzed urine samples from a group of Old Order Mennonite women in mid-pregnancy and determined they have lower levels endocrine-disrupting chemicals than the general population in their systems.
"Bisphenol A and phthalates have been linked to a number of adverse health effects, but because these chemicals are so pervasive in the environment, and we all carry their signatures in our bodies, it's difficult to explicitly identify environmental sources and pathways," Swan said in a statement. "The Mennonite community provides us with a natural comparison group because they eat mostly fresh, unprocessed foods, farms without pesticides, applies no cosmetics and uses personal care products sparingly."
The study, published in the journal NeuroToxicology, found 7-of-10 of the Old Order Mennonite women had detectable levels of BPA and all of them had detectable levels of one or more of the phthalates being tested, but levels were lower than expected.