Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Chemical Exposure Linked to Preterm Birth Risk


Women exposed to phthalates during pregnancy are at increased risk of preterm birth, according to US research. Phthalates are found in lotions, perfumes, deodorants and plastics such as PVC.

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“This is a better study than most of its kind, but I think that the fourfold difference in the odds of preterm birth is larger than one would expect just from the measured differences in phthalate concentrations... Are other factors, not controlled for in this study, possibly involved? The authors allow of this possibility. They wisely say that it’s not enough to identify one or two causes, and that ‘detailed investigation of many component contributors is necessary’ before the cause is known.

Their advice that women should avoid cosmetics containing certain phthalates is supported by the recent report on dibutyl phthalate... by Australia’s National Industrial Chemical Notification and Assessment Scheme. NICNAS says it’s safe in children’s toys but it should not be included in cosmetics.”

Ian D. Rae is an expert on chemicals in the environment and is an Honorary professorial fellow in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Melbourne He is also an advisor to the United Nations Environment Programme on chemicals in the environment.


“The reasons underlying preterm birth are not well understood, and this is alarming because prematurity is common and is on the increase, especially in countries such as Australia. This study provides compelling new information that exposure to phthalate chemicals may be one of the environmental...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.