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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Pregnant women warehouse toxic chemicals

The bodies of virtually all U.S. pregnant women carry multiple chemicals, including those used in non-stick cookware, processed foods, and personal care products, according to a study from the University of California at San Francisco. Some of the chemicals have been banned since the 1970s.

The study marks the first time that the number of chemicals to which pregnant women are exposed has been counted.

Researchers analyzed data for 163 chemicals and for 268 pregnant women from the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey (NHANES) 2003-2004, a nationally representative sample of the U.S. population. In almost 100 percent of the pregnant women, researchers detected polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), organochlorine pesticides, perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), phenols, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), phthalates, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and perchlorate. Among the chemicals found in the study group were PBDEs, compounds used as flame retardants now banned in many states including California, and dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), an organochlorine pesticide banned in the United States in 1972.

Bisphenol A (BPA), which makes plastic hard and clear and is found in epoxy resins that are used to line the inside of metal food and beverage cans, was identified in 96 percent of the women surveyed. Prenatal exposure to BPA has been linked to adverse health outcomes, affecting brain development and increasing susceptibility to cancer later in life, according to the researchers.

“It was surprising and concerning to find so many chemicals in pregnant women,” explained lead author Tracey Woodruff, PhD, MPH, director of the UCSF Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment.

“Several of these chemicals in pregnant women were at the same concentrations that have been associated with negative effects in children from other studies. In addition, exposure to multiple chemicals that can increase the risk of the same adverse health outcome can have a greater impact than exposure to just one chemical,” said Woodruff, an associate professor in the UCSF Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences.

Chemicals can cross the placenta and enter the fetus, and in other studies, a number of chemicals measured in maternal urine and serum have been found in amniotic fluid, cord blood and meconium (first bowel movements).

“Our findings indicate several courses of action. First, additional research is needed to identify dominant sources of exposure to chemicals and how they influence our health, especially in reproduction,” said Woodruff. “Second, while individuals can take actions in their everyday lives to protect themselves from toxins, significant, long-lasting change only will result from a systemic approach that includes proactive government policies.”

Dr. Grout’s comment:

This was not an industry-sponsored study; funding was provided by the Pew Charitable Trusts and a grant from the Passport Science Innovation Fund. So it is pretty objective data. And it seems to go hand-in-hand with Environmental Working Group’s studies of umbilical cord blood which was found to have in excess of two hundred chemicals in it.

Something to remember when reading about chemicals warehoused in our bodies, the body burden, is that one plus one can equal three or ten. In other words, there is often a synergistic effect with chemicals. Two chemicals in combination can be worse than each one alone. For example, mercury and lead, in combination, become more much toxic than either one alone.

So we have further proof that many of our children marinate in a toxic stew before they are born. That goes a long way to explaining why more than 50% of children will suffer from chronic diseases in their childhood ranging from ADHD and asthma to obesity and diabetes. (JAMA 2/17/10)

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