"CHICAGO -- A chemical used in many plastic products and already under scrutiny for potential health risks is suspected of raising the risk of liver problems in premature babies, according to a new study.
The small study in a German hospital suggests a chemical known as a phthalate, used in some intravenous feeding bags and tubing, may raise preemies' chances for liver damage.
Rigorous research on phthalates' effects in humans is lacking, and at least one expert found the German study unconvincing. There is no solid proof implicating the phthalate studied, DEHP.
However, the researchers said their results show that hospitals treating newborns or preemies should turn to IV feeding equipment that doesn't contain DEHP. Some hospitals in the U.S. already have switched.
Premature babies' livers are immature so they are already at risk for liver complications. They also are often fed intravenously, a practice already known to increase liver problems. The new study, published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, says one possible reason is DEHP. Animal studies suggest the phthalate chemical may cause various health risks including liver abnormalities and reproductive system damage."