Jointly funded through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), the program was initially established to focus on whether exposure to bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates alters infant and adolescent physical development, cognition, or behaviour.
Now three years on, director of the center Dr. Susan Schantz says the scientists going forward, will extend their research to “address two additional compounds: triclosan, used in antibacterial products, and parabens, commonly found in cosmetics, sun screens, and shampoos."
"We are also incorporating diet into the study to explore how endocrine disruptors interact with diets high in saturated fat to impact neurological and reproductive function prenatally and during adolescence-two critical developmental periods," she adds.
The center, based at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University encompasses four closely linked research projects: two human cohort studies and two laboratory animal studies.
The central project, known as the Illinois Kids Development Study (I-KIDS), follows pregnant women and their babies, measuring the levels of the compounds of interest in maternal urine during pregnancy and collecting data on possible sources of exposure.
Over the next five years the center expects to recruit an additional 500 mothers and their infants with the continued partnership of Carle Physicians Group as well as a new partnership with Christie Clinic in Champaign-Urbana.
On-going debate on these substances
Beyond its use in toothpaste to prevent gingivitis, the FDA has found no evidence that Triclosan's use in antibacterial soaps and body washes provides any benefit over washing with regular soap and water and other Agencies continue to study the effects of the substance on animal and environmental health.
Patented in 1964 and introduced into the market in the early 1970s, lobby groups continue to claim that scientific studies link the chemical to endocrine system disruption, cancer and increased dermal sensitisation.
The use of BPA, also known as Bisphenol A was banned as an ingredient in cosmetic formulations back in 2006, but it is used as a coating material in a number of packaging materials, including plastic bottles and aerosols, where it is used to prevent corrosion.
Cosmetic manufacturers and representative bodies argue that the use of Bisphenol A is essential to prevent the degradation of packaging to ensure the quality of the formulation, and ultimately human health.