Canned foods. Cash receipts. Hard-plastic toys. Dental sealants. Wonder what all of these items all have in common? They contain a chemical called Bisphenol A (BPA), and as such, they could be linked to your child's asthma. This finding, which comes from Columbia researchers, was published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology in March 2013.

Why Explore BPA and Asthma?
Asthma rates have been on the rise for the past few decades, and children who live in poorer neighborhoods seem to be disproportionately affected. Many studies have pointed to environmental exposure as a possible explanation.

"We decided to look at the BPA and asthma link because results from experimental studies in laboratory animals indicated that BPA appears to increase the allergic response," explains study researcher Robin Whyatt, DrPH, professor of environmental health sciences and deputy director of the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health.

Findings on BPA and Childhood Asthma
To gain a better understanding of BPA's effects, she says that she and her colleagues focused their research specifically on women and children of lower economic means who lived in African American and Dominican communities, which have some of the highest asthma rates in the country.

The scientists looked at more than 550 pregnant women who lived in these communities and followed them from their third trimesters all of the way beyond their children's 12th birthdays. They tested the mother's urine while pregnant and also the children's urine at various intervals throughout this period.

What they discovered was that the concentrations of BPA in the children's urine at ages 3, 5, and 7 were related to an increased risk of childhood asthma and wheezing. This was in keeping with what the researchers expected. However, there was one surprising result.

"Concentration of BPA in the mother's urine during the third trimester of pregnancy was not associated with a child's odds of wheeze at age five years," Whyatt says. "This is the opposite of what we expected and what other scientists have found," she adds, referring in particular to a similar study published in Environmental Health Perspectives in June of 2012. "However, our finding, that postnatal BPA is associated with increased odds of wheeze and asthma in young children, was seen consistently at multiple time points."

What This BPA and Asthma Link Means For You
While more research is necessary to better understand BPA's impact on children and adults, it's important to pay attention to your family's exposure to environmental chemicals, since it appears from the findings that even low-dose levels may cause some ill effects.

To reduce your family's BPA exposure, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences offers the following recommendations:

  • Check the bottoms of plastic containers, which are often marked with recycle codes. Avoids those labeled with the numbers 3 & 7, since these are most likely to contain BPA.
  • Incorporate more fresh food into your diet rather than relying on canned items to minimize your contact with BPA.
  • Choose glass, porcelain, or stainless steel containers for your hot food and liquids instead of plastic.
  • Avoid microwaving your food in plastic containers, since over time the heat can break down the plastic increasing your BPA exposure.

Robin Whyatt, DrPH, MPH, reviewed this article.


Donohue, Kathleen M. et al. "Prenatal and postnatal bisphenol A exposure and asthma development among inner-city children." The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 131 (3) (March 2013): 736-742e6. Web. 17 March 2013.

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. "Questions and Answers About Bisphenol A." National Institutes of Health. US Department of Health and Human Services. 5 Nov. 2012. Web. 17 March 2013.

Spanier, Adam J et al. "Prenatal Exposure to Bisphenol A and Child Wheeze from Birth to 3 Years of Age." Environmental Health Perspectives 120 (6) (June 2012): 916-920. Web. 17 March 2013.

Whyatt, Robin DrPH, professor of environmental health sciences and deputy director of the Columbia Center for Children¹s Environmental Health. Email interview 15 March 2013.