A new study conducted with mice and a group of chemicals commonly found in cosmetics and personal hygiene products has yielded some unsettling results.
The study, conducted by scientists at A&M University in Texas, examined the exercise habits of mice who had been prenatally exposed to phthalates, a class of chemicals found in products from food containers to shampoos and perfumes, according to The New York Times. The results found that mice exposed to phthalates before birth were less likely to exercise as adults.
For the new study, researchers mated healthy male and female mice and gave half of the pregnant mice benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP), while the other half acted as a control group.
After birth, the newborn mice were given running wheels and allowed to exercise as much as they wanted to. The researchers found that, by adulthood, the mice whose mothers had ingested the BBP did not exercise as much as the mice from the control group.
The results found that the male mice whose mothers had ingested BBP exercised 20 percent less than their control group counterparts, while the females whose mothers had been fed BBP exercised about 15 percent less.
Dr. Emily Schmitt, who led the Texas A&M study, said the findings indicated that, in mice, "exposure to the endocrine disrupter BBP might affect lifelong physical activity."
Though the results do not necessarily indicate that the same holds true for people, the study does raise the possibility that chemicals in a baby's environment can affect their exercise habits throughout life.
High levels of phthalates have also been found to be connected with a higher risk of type-2 diabetes, Science Daily reported. A study published by researchers at Uppsala University found that even a moderate increase in the amount of phthalates circulating in a person's bloodstream can double the risk of diabetes.
Pthalates, including mono-methyl phthalate (MMP), mono-ethyl phthalate (MEP) and mono-isobutyl phthalate (MiBP), are found in many common household products, such as cosmetics, shampoos, air fresheners, plastics and scented candles.
While Schmitt said more research needed to be done, She noted that pregnant mothers should exercise caution, The Times reports.
"It certainly seems like a good idea to try to avoid endocrine disruptors as much as possible, especially if you are pregnant," said Schmitt, who added that it was impossible to know at this point whether human babies could be affected in the same way as the mice.