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24 November 2008

Hairspray ups birth defect risk

Women exposed to hairspray during pregnancy may be more likely to give birth to boys with a genital defect.

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Women exposed to hairspray during pregnancy may be more likely to give birth to boys with a genital defect called hypospadias, in which the opening of the urethra is on the underside of the penis, instead of the tip, says an Imperial College London study.

The researchers interviewed 471 women whose boys were born with hypospadias and a similar number of women whose boys were normal. About twice as many women in the hypospadias group said they'd been exposed to hairspray through their jobs as hairdressers and beauty therapists, BBC News reported.

In recent decades, there's been a sharp rise in the incidence of hypospadias. Some experts suspect it may be due to hormone-disrupting chemicals called phthalates, which are used in hairsprays. However, there's no proof that exposure to hairspray can cause hypospadias, said the authors of the study in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

"Women shouldn't be alarmed. This study adds a bit more evidence to the general picture about these chemicals, but more research will be needed to demonstrate that the link exists," said study leader Professor Paul Elliott. "Pregnant women will need to make their own choices about whether or not to avoid these kind of exposures." – (HealthDay News, November 2008)

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