Hairspray doubles rates of male genital birth defects

Being exposed to hairspray during pregnancy appears to double the risk of having a son with genital birth defects, say UK researchers.

The findings suggest that hairspray and hypospadias, one of the most common genital birth defects in boys, may be linked because of chemicals in hairspray known as phthalates.

Previous studies have proposed that phthalates may disrupt the hormonal systems in the body and affect reproductive development.

For this latest study, the researchers conducted telephone interviews with 471 mothers whose sons had been referred to surgeons for hypospadias and 490 controls.

The interviews examined a range of aspects of the women's health and lifestyle, including occupation and possible exposure to different chemicals.

Women who were exposed to hairspray at work during their first trimester had a two- to three-fold increased risk of hypospadias compared with those who were not exposed.

The study also found that women who were taking folic acid supplements in the first trimester lowered their risk of having a child with hypospadias by 36 per cent.

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