Phthalates increase the risk of allergies among children

The Helmholtz-Centre for Environmental Research GmbH – UFZ shared a press release on May 3rd 2017 to summarise the findings of a current study by UFZ researchers in conjunction with scientists from the University of Leipzig and the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ).

The summary of the findings is that heavy exposure of phthalates to the mother during pregnancy and breastfeeding increases the risk of children developing allergic asthma.
There was a clearly discernible relationship between higher concentrations of the metabolite of benzylbutylphthalate (BBP) in the mother’s urine and the presence of allergic asthma in their children”, explains Dr Irina Lehmann, who heads the LINA study.

The original, unedited research paper provides further detail on how exactly the exposure affects the child, by altering the expression of genes.

These data provide strong evidence that maternal BBP exposure increases the risk for allergic airway inflammation in the offspring by modulating the expression of genes involved in Th2 differentiation via epigenetic alterations.
In summary, the data from our study strongly suggest that early exposure to specific phthalates increases susceptibility to the development of allergic asthma in the offspring and even contributes to airway inflammation in the F2 generation. The asthma-promoting effect was mediated by epigenetic changes leading to an altered expression of genes, which play a crucial role in immune regulation.

Therefore, chemical exposure of the developing immune system leads to an altered epigenetic prenatal programming contributing not only to asthma development in later life but potentially also to other immune-regulated diseases.