A recent Australian study found that the majority of pregnant women have a chemical in their urine that's believed to cause behavioural issues in children.
The research on Bisphenol A, a chemical commonly found in plastic bottles and tin cans, found that 84 per cent of pregnant women had detectable amounts of the chemical in their urine.
The results, compiled by Edith Cowan University researchers and headed by Dr Anna Callan in 2011, were recently published in the International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health.
Dr Callan said it was understood that people could ingest small amounts of the chemical when eating or drinking from a container with BPA within it, and said the survey of pregnant women provided an indication of the consequential exposure of the chemical on unborn children.
Dr Callan said other research had also indicated that prenatal exposure could cause behavioural issues, particularly in girls, and especially in terms of behaviour such as aggression, hyperactivity and defiance.
She said it was therefore a concern that so many pregnant women in the test group had indicated having a level of the chemical in their system.
Dr Callan said research done in other parts of the world had previously shown that BPA was found at higher levels within pregnant women. While she was not sure why this was, she suggested it could have something to do with the change in metabolism that a mum-to-be experienced.
While there has not been any definitive findings on the effects of BPA on adults who initially come in contact with BPA or ingest it, some scientists have concerns that the chemical could have negative health effects on the wider population.
While Dr Callan said there was a long way to go before it was proven that BPA caused negative health outcomes, she said she tried to avoid products with the chemical in it whenever possible.
She said the results from her study on pregnant women shouldn't cause people to panic as further research was required.
She also pointed out that there are alternatives if people wanted to reduce their exposure to the chemical.
"Realistically, it's impossible to avoid BPA completely, but where possible, I'd not use water bottles or baby bottles with it," Dr Callan said.
She said that checking labels can help; seeing a number seven in a triangle, with the letters 'PC', means a product could have BPA in it.
The research was the first of its kind in Australia because it is difficult to get funding for it, according to Dr Callan.
"A lot of funding bodies don't support it, there's a feeling that this type of research has the potential to form alarm in society," she said, adding that her research was at least a "starting point".
Dr Callan said the sample size was not large enough for the results to reach statistical significance, but has called for more research into the exposure of pregnant women to ascertain if there is a safe level of BPA exposure.
- FFX Aus