Claims that a plastics chemical banned from babies' bottles may contribute to miscarriages and birth defects have been backed by a new primate study.
Scientists in the US found that female rhesus monkeys exposed to bisphenol A (BPA) suffered reproductive abnormalities.
The effects also had an impact on their unborn daughters whose ability to ovulate was likely to be impaired.
Lead scientist Dr Patricia Hunt, from Washington State University, said: “The concern is exposure to this chemical that we're all exposed to could increase the risk of miscarriages and the risk of babies born with birth defects like Down’s syndrome.
“The stunning thing about the effect is we're dosing grandma, it's crossing the placenta and hitting her developing foetus and if that foetus is a female, it's changing the likelihood that that female is going to ovulate normal eggs. It's a three-for-one hit.”
BPA is widely used in food packaging, plastic bottles and the lining of aluminium drinks cans.
The chemical is an “endocrine disrupter” that can disturb hormonal systems. Although only very low levels enter the body, some experts believe constant exposure may be harmful.
Last year, the chemical was banned from babies' bottles and drinks containers in EU countries including the UK.
Scientists exposed different groups of pregnant monkeys to large daily doses of BPA and low-level continuous doses.
But British reproductive health expert Professor Richard Sharpe, University of Edinburgh, was critical of the research. “The levels of exposure used in the study are far in excess of human exposure, so raise minimal health concerns for pregnant women and their babies.”