Could exposure to certain chemicals make you react faster or slower? A new study from researchers at Cincinnati Children's Hospital and Medical Center has found a connection between a mother's in utero exposure to certain chemicals found in plastics and her infant's development and reflexes.
The study, published in the journal Neurotoxicology and Teratology, looked at a mother's exposure to phthalates, chemicals found in a number of consumer products, and found that the mother's was connected to her baby's reflexes and self-control.
The two phthalates under scrutiny are di-butyl phthalate (DBP,) which is found in many cosmetics and beauty care products, and d-2-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) a chemical used in the preparation and storage of a number of food products.
For this study, researchers tracked 350 pregnant women from their second trimester of pregnancy until their infants were 5 weeks old. They measured the concentration of chemicals, namely BPA, DEP and DEHP in the women's urine at 16 weeks and at 26 weeks. When their babes were 5 weeks old, researchers examined the infants' behavior, stress levels and reflexes, assessing primitive reflexes, active and passive muscle tone, movement quality, alertness and orientation to stimuli.
For once, BPA did not seem to have an effect. The infants' behavior and reflexes were the same regardless of the mother's exposure to BPA. However the phthalates did have an effect. Researchers found that higher concentrations of DEHP in the mother's urine at 26 weeks were associated with less optimal reflexes in boys. Surprisingly, they also found that exposure to DBP was associated with improved movement quality and self-control.
I guess the best you can hope for is that you have enough of both chemicals in your system to cancel out their effects.