A common chemical found in a multitude of household items has been found to affect the development of the mammary gland in rats. The new research is the first to show that this common chemical can affect the breasts' genomic profile.
The chemical in question, butyl benzyl phthalate (BBP), is widely used as a plasticizer and is found in household fittings such as pipes, vinyl floor tiles and carpet backing. It is known to be an endocrine disruptor, which mimics the effect of hormones.
The researchers fed lactating rats with BBP, which their offspring then absorbed via breast milk. The offspring ingested levels of the chemical estimated to be equivalent to the EPA's safe dose limit of BBP for humans.
The researchers found that BBP had a transitory effect on certain characteristics of the female offspring of the rats, such as the ratio of uterine weight to body weight and the genetic profile of the mammary gland. Although these effects wore off once exposure to BBP was removed, the subtle changes in the mammary gland may have an effect later in life.
The researchers, writing in the journal BMC Genomics, said further studies will be required to determine if the presence of BPP could lead to breast cancer.
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Source: BMC Genomics