Child behavior can be affected by prenatal exposure to bisphenol A (BPA), but not from post-natal exposure, according to findings published Oct. 24 in Pediatrics.

BPA has been used for more than 40 years to make a wide variety of hard plastic products including food containers, baby bottles, reusable cups and the linings of metal food containers. Industry and environmental interest groups have debated for years whether BPA harms human health.

The new study, conducted by researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health, Cincinnati Children’s, the University of Cincinnati and other centers, measured BPA in urine samples from nearly 250 mothers and children near Cincinnati.

They found that BPA exposure during pregnancy was linked with anxious, depressive and hyperactive behaviors in girls at age 3. The higher the BPA urine levels, the more pronounced the effects.

However, the study did not confirm a link between behavior problems and post-natal exposure.

These findings contribute to the ongoing debate over whether to ban BPA in the United States.  Several news organizations recently covered the topic, including  Good Morning America, the Washington Post, USA Today, and UPI.

Kimberly Yolton, PhD, an expert in pediatric environmental health at Cincinnati Children’s and a co-author of the latest study, says one problem with restricting or banning a potentially harmful chemical is that scientists know even less about the chemicals that might be used as replacements.

Read more about Yolton’s research into the risks of plastics and pesticides in the latest issue of Research Horizons.