Hairspray Link to Genital Birth Defects

Submitted by on Jan 5, 2011

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Hypospadias are considered as the most common birth defects of the male genitalia in which the penile meatus is not at the tip of the penis. The meatus is the term for opening the penis through which urine usually exits the bladder.  This deficiency can be found in 1 in 125 boys born in the US. The name “hypospadias” comes from the Greek word (hypo, under and spadias, rent).  It refers to the position of the opening through which the child urinates.

Most of the incidents of hypospadias are periodic and are without inheritance or family recurrence; however at some cases, it can be the result of inheritance – a pericentric inversion of chromosome. This situation often needs surgery.  This birth deficiency is also associated with another defect called chordee.  According to Merriam Webster on-line, chordee is a painful erection of the penis often with a downward curvature that may be present in a congenital condition (as hypospadias) or accompany gonorrhea.  Hypospadias can be repaired before a child is one year of age.

The frequency of hypospadias has augmented sharply in recent decades, and some experts are blaming the chemicals called phthalates which are found in some plastics, as well as those found in hairspray are the major culprits behind this defect.

According to a new study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, Paul Elliott and colleagues from Imperial College London, University College Cork and the Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology in Barcelona revealed that if women are exposed to hairspray at the workplace in their first trimester of pregnancy they have a two to three fold chance of having their child with hypospadia.

During the study 471 women were interviewed in the year 2000 and 2003 whose babies were born with hypospadias during the year 1997 and 1998, along with the women with unaffected children. Majority of women in the “hypospadias” group disclosed that they were exposed to hairspray including exhaust fumes, printing ink, hairspray, or glues through their job compared to those with unaffected babies.

Out of 74 women who were reported exposed to hairspray regularly at their workplace during the first three months of pregnancy, 50 women had their sons with the genital defect.

Professor Andreas Kortenkamp, the head of the Centre for Toxicology at the School of Pharmacy, University of London, termed it as an “important research”

Professor Richard Sharpe, from Edinburgh University advised women workers if they are planning a pregnancy they should avoid or minimize the use of cosmetics, body creams/lotions etc, particularly in the first three months of pregnancy in an endeavor to avoid unnecessary chemical exposures to the unborn child.

Did you know?

According to the above study, women who took folic acid during the first three months of pregnancy were a third less likely to have a baby with hypospadias.