Eating canned food during pregnancy can put the baby at risk of exposure to an industrial chemical bisphenol A (BPA), potentially affecting their reproductive health in later life, scientists say.
While previous studies have shown the adverse health effects of prenatal exposure to BPA, there is little evidence surrounding effects specifically on ovarian function.
Researchers from Boston University in the US found that there is sufficient data to raise concerns regarding exposure and ovarian performance.
Detectable in surface water and soil sediments, BPA is used in many industrial processes and in the lining of food cans.
While the greatest exposure is dietary from canned foods and plastic containers, skin exposure is a secondary route of smaller exposure, researchers said.
Ovarian development and function represents a complex coordination of processes, starting early during prenatal development. Early aberrations have the potential to carry through the female reproductive lifespan, according to the researchers.
To examine whether a prenatal environmental exposure can pose a real threat to human ovarian function, the team performed a literature search in PubMed (from 2000 to June 2018), to examine existing literature surrounding prenatal exposure to BPA.
"We found there is mounting evidence for the effects of these exposures in the prenatal period, a particularly vulnerable time of development," explained corresponding author Shruthi Mahalingaiah, assistant professor at Boston University.
"Whether there are causative associations with human ovulation disorders needs to be further studied," said Mahalingaiah.
The findings are particularly relevant since there are implications for both foetal and women's health.
"Understanding the effect that BPA exposure has on ovarian outcomes may contribute to the treatment approach taken for diseases and disorders in which ovarian dysfunction is a manifestation such as infertility, polycystic ovary syndrome and premature ovarian failure," said Mahalingaiah.
The researchers hope their study raises awareness to the lasting effects that harmful prenatal exposures may have and that additional studies looking at the long-term effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals in diverse populations will be undertaken.