The chemical phthalate may increase the risk of liver damage in premature babies, say German researchers who looked at DEHP, a type of phthalate used to make some intravenous feeding bags and tubing.
The study found that liver problems developed in 50 percent of infants fed with tubes containing DEHP, compared with 13 percent of infants fed with tubes that didn't contain the chemical, the Associated Press reported.
The researchers said their findings show that hospitals treating preemies and other newborns should use IV feeding equipment that doesn't contain DEHP. The study appears in the journal Pediatrics.
"This is a pretty strong damnation of" the chemical, Deborah Cory-Slechta, an environmental medicine professor at the University of Rochester medical school, told the AP. "It needs to be replicated. But I still think this makes a very strong case for getting rid of these compounds" in intensive care units that treat infants.
Some U.S. hospitals have already taken action.