Study for Future Families
In the first phase of this study, part of an international effort, we were trying to understand how chemicals in our modern environment might affect how easy (or difficult) it is for couples to become pregnant. In all, we enrolled almost 900 pregnant women and their partners at several locations around the United States. Although the SFF participants were all fertile enough to have children, we found that sperm counts were lower in some parts of the U.S., and our results suggested that agricultural pesticides might be playing a role.
In the next phase of SFF, we invited mothers whose SFF children were less than two years old to help us study reproductive development in children. In that study, we looked at one type of common chemical (the “phthalates”, found in some plastics and other household products). We measured phthalate levels in the urine samples provided by pregnant SFF mothers. We found that when the urine levels of these chemicals were higher (which suggests the mothers’ exposures were higher), their boys (but not girls) had small changes in their genital area. The babies all appeared completely normal, but the ability to detect these small changes has been important in the debate about the safety of these chemicals, and has provided a new way for researchers to study this important question. Since this SFF study was published in 2005, more than 350 other scientific studies have referred to our results in their research.
Study for Future Families III
In the third phase of SFF we looked at SFF children who were 4-7 years old to look at these same chemicals again in order to see whether the mothers’ levels of these chemicals were related to what toys and games the child enjoyed or avoided. In this study the same chemicals that had been linked to the small genital changes in infant boys were also related to the way boys played as preschoolers. As with the reproductive development study, the differences seen were small and probably unimportant for any given child. However, the changes were consistent enough to suggest that these chemicals may be changing our children's behavior and development in subtle ways.
Study for Future Families IV
Now, in the fourth phase, the SFF Childhood Follow Up Study is examining the SFF children again as they grow older. We are all exposed to small amounts of many man-made chemicals. These chemicals may be causing some of the common health problems we see in modern society. The focus of our study is several common chemicals used in household products (such as bisphenol A, also called “BPA", and phthalates). The level of these chemicals in mothers’ previously collected and stored blood and urine samples during pregnancy will be analyzed to determine if they can influence the child's behavior (like hyperactivity, play styles, and eating) or weight gain. This study is funded by an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) grant.
Study for Future Families V
As part of the SFF Childhood Follow Up Study, we will be contacting some families for the Childhood Respiratory Phase (CHIRP) Study. In CHIRP, we are hoping to discover how prenatal exposures predispose some children to asthma and other respiratory ailments.
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