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National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

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Science Spotlight

Endocrine Disruptors in Egyptian Girls

Cutting Tissues

The rising demand for westernized products and changing food practices in developing countries may be accompanied by a rise in exposure to endocrine disruptors like bisphenol A (BPA), according to research in Egypt by Dana Dolinoy, Ph.D., an NIEHS grantee and assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at the University of Michigan School of Public Health (UM SPH).

BPA can leach from the plastic linings of food and drink containers, making diet a potential route of exposure to the chemical, that has been linked to developmental and reproductive dysfunction, as well as many chronic diseases.

BPA exposure is pervasive in the United States but less is known about exposure in developing countries. Variations in social and behavioral practices between rural and urban populations in developing countries offer a unique opportunity to study how lifestyle differences can affect BPA exposure and associated disease.

“By studying exposure routes in developing countries we may have a chance to impact future exposure levels by knowing what kind of dietary and behavioral practices impact BPA exposure,” said Dolinoy.

A group of researchers led by Dolinoy compared BPA concentrations in urine samples collected from 30 urban and 30 rural premenstrual Egyptian girls. Each girl was interviewed to assess potential routes of exposure based on lifestyle behaviors, such as canned food use and food storage practices. Using an existing data set from a 2009-2010 U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, the researchers also compared urinary BPA concentrations in age-matched American girls to the Egyptian cohort.

Dolinoy and her colleagues found no significant difference in concentrations of urinary BPA between rural and urban Egyptian girls. Both urban and rural girls who ate food stored in plastic containers had higher urinary BPA concentrations than girls who did not, implicating diet as a major route of BPA exposure in this population. The average urinary BPA concentration among American girls was more than two-fold higher than among Egyptian girls.

Dolinoy added, “The results point to the fact that there are really different food practice behaviors in different countries, and to limit BPA exposure in people, policy makers should pay particular attention to changing food practices in their country.”

Exposure to endocrine disruptors disproportionately affects development during early life stages with infants and children being particularly susceptible to the adverse health outcomes associated with BPA exposure.

“It is going to be particularly important to begin to look at mixtures of endocrine disruptors together, as well as different timings of exposure, such as in utero exposure compared to exposure throughout the life course,” said Dolinoy, who is interested in examining the health effects associated with simultaneous exposure to multiple endocrine disruptors.

This study was a collaborative effort of Dolinoy, Laura Rozek, Amr Soliman, Muna Nahar, Justin Colacino, and Kristen Battige of UM SPH, as well as Antonia Calafat of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Ahmed Hablas and Ibrahim A. Seifeldin of the Tanta Cancer Center, Egypt.

Citation: Nahar MS, Soliman AS, Colacino JA, Calafat AM, Battige K, Hablas A, Seifeldin IA, Dolinoy DC, Rozek LS. 2012. Urinary bisphenol A concentrations in girls from rural and urban Egypt: a pilot study. Environ Health 11:20; doi:10.1186/1476-069X-11-20 [Online 2 April 2012].

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