Impacts of bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalate exposures on epigenetic outcomes in the human placenta

Rita S. Strakovsky, Susan L. Schantz

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The placenta guides fetal growth and development. Bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates are widespread environmental contaminants and endocrine disruptors, and the placental epigenetic response to these chemicals is an area of growing research interest. Therefore, our objective was to summarize research linking BPA or phthalate exposure to placental outcomes in human pregnancies, with a particular focus on epigenetic endpoints. In PubMed, studies were selected for review (without limiting start date and ending on 1 May 2018) if they reported any direct effects of BPA or phthalates on the placenta in humans. Collectively, available studies suggest that BPA and phthalate exposures are associated with changes to placental micro-RNA expression, DNA methylation, and genomic imprinting. Furthermore, several studies suggest that fetal sex may be an important modifier of placental outcomes in response to these chemicals. Studies in humans demonstrate associations of BPA and phthalate exposure with adverse placental outcomes. Moving forward, more studies should consider sex differences (termed "placental sex") in the measured outcomes, and should utilize appropriate statistical approaches to assess modification by fetal sex. Furthermore, more consistent sample collection and molecular outcome assessment paradigms will be indispensable for making progress in the field. These advances, together with improved non-invasive tools for measuring placental function and outcomes across pregnancy, will be critical for understanding the mechanisms driving placental epigenetic disruption in response to BPA and phthalates, and how these disruptions translate into placental and fetal health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberdvy022
JournalEnvironmental Epigenetics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1 2018


  • BPA
  • endocrine disrupting chemicals
  • epigenetics
  • phthalates
  • placenta

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Genetics(clinical)


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