(HealthDay News) – Prenatal exposure to butylbenzyl phthalate (BBzP), as assessed by increased concentrations of monobenzyl phthalate (MBzP) in the urine, is associated with an increased risk of early-onset eczema in offspring, according to a study published online June 26 in Environmental Health Perspectives.

Allan C. Just, PhD, from Columbia University in New York City, and colleagues measured MBzP in the urine of 407 African-American and Dominican women during the third trimester of pregnancy. The women were later asked whether their child had ever been diagnosed with eczema, and blood samples from the children were examined for allergens at age 24, 36, and 60 months.

The researchers found that over 99% of urine samples contained MBzP. At 24 months, 30% of children had developed eczema, although eczema was much more common in African-Americans than Dominicans (48% vs. 21%). After adjusting for urine-specific gravity, sex, and race/ethnicity, increasing MBzP levels were associated with an increased risk of developing early-onset eczema by 24 months (relative risk, 1.52 for an interquartile range increase in log MBzP concentration). The association was not affected by seroatopy, and MBzP did not correlate with allergic sensitization.

“Prenatal exposure to BBzP may influence the risk of developing eczema in early childhood,” Just and colleagues conclude. “The association appeared to be primarily among those with early-onset eczema, reported by 24 months of age.”

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