Study Finds Hairspray May Cause Genital Birth Defect
A new study has shown that women exposed to hairspray while pregnant may double their risk of having a son born with the genital birth defect
Hypospadias, a condition in which the opening of the urethra is on the underside, rather than at the end, of the penis, is one of the most common male genitalia birth defects, and affects up to 3 in 1,000 newborn boys.
This study, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, is the first to show a link between hairspray and hypospadias.
Women who are in their first trimester of pregnancy have a two to three times increased risk of having a son born with hypospadias if they are exposed to hairspray in the workplace.
Researchers from Imperial College London, University College Cork and the Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology in Barcelona suggest that hairspray and hypospadias may be linked together through a chemical called phthalates, which appears in hairspray.
The researchers conducted telephone interviews with 471 mothers with sons that had hypospadias. They compared that data with the control group, consisting of 490 women.
The interviews consisted of a range of questions about the woman’s health, lifestyle, occupation, family history of the disease, vegetarianism, smoking, the use of folate supplements, and possible exposure to chemical substances.
In most cases, hypospadias can be successfully treated with corrective surgery before the child reaches 18 months of age. Untreated cases can lead to difficulties with toilet training and sexual intercourse problems in adulthood.
The study also shows that taking folic acid supplements within the first three months of pregnancy has a 36 percent reduced risk of having a child with this condition.
“Hypospadias is a condition that, if left untreated, can cause problems in later life. Although surgery to correct it is usually successful, any surgery will be traumatic for the child and his parents. It is encouraging that our study showed that taking folic acid supplements in pregnancy may reduce the risk of a child being born with the condition. Further research is needed to understand better why women exposed to hairspray at work in the first 3 months of pregnancy may have increased risk of giving birth to a boy with hypospadias,” said Professor Paul Elliott, author of the research.
Source: Imperial College Press Release