If you’re expecting a child, or thinking of becoming pregnant, I’m afraid this post is going to be one depressing read. 99% of women in a study conducted by researchers at the University of California at San Francisco were found to have “multiple chemicals, including some banned since the 1970s and others used in common products such as non-stick cookware, processed foods and personal care products.”
Lead author Tracey Woodruff, PhD, MPH, director of the UCSF Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment, noted that it was indeed “…surprising and concerning to find so many chemicals in pregnant women without fully knowing the implications for pregnancy.”
In the study (which was published in Environmental Health Perspectives on January 14th), researchers analyzed data for 268 pregnant women from the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey (NHANES) 2003-2004, a nationally representative sample of the U.S. population. This is what they found, as noted in Science Daily:
Analyzing data for 163 chemicals, researchers detected polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), organochlorine pesticides, perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), phenols, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), phthalates, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and perchlorate in 99 to 100 percent of pregnant women. 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.
Exposure to chemicals during fetal development has been shown to increase the risk of:
- preterm birth and birth defects
- childhood morbidity
- adult disease and mortality
Further, the researchers noted that chemicals can ‘cross the placenta and enter the fetus.’ Other studies have found that chemicals detected in a mother’s urine and serum have also been found in amniotic fluid, cord blood and meconium.
If you’re planning on getting married or having a baby and friends wish to hold a shower, maybe it would be well to specify safe cookware (not the non-stick type) on your registry? And to go through the contents of your kitchen cabinet and make an inventory of what might be safe and what not. Maybe you can be even more firm now in telling your mother-in-law you really don’t need those 1970′s-era pots and pans from the back of her kitchen cabinet…
I apologize if I sound a bit alarmist. My son is autistic and while we do think that genetics had a lot to do with things for him, I can see why many people are concerned as to whether ‘something’ in the environment or some household chemicals or others might ‘contribute’ to a child having some health or learning issues.
We all want our children to be healthy, happy, and safe, yet every day we seem to hear about something else that endangers their and our lives. As Peggy Orenstein wrote in the New York Times Magazine after learning that the air quality around the Berkeley (California) schools that her daughter attended “fell in the lowest 10 percent” if not in the “bottom 1 percent,” in the whole country:
Since December [of 2008], when the report came out, the mayor, neighborhood activists and various parent-teacher associations have engaged in a sometimes-acrimonious, acronym-laced battle over its validity: over the culpability of the steel-casting factory on the western edge of town, over union jobs versus children’s health and over what, if anything, ought to be done. With all sides presenting their own experts throwing down the gauntlets of conflicting scientific studies, whom should parents believe? Is there truly a threat here, we asked one another as we dropped off our kids, and if so, how great is it? …this latest drama, repeated in various permutations in so many communities, is a crucible for how today’s parents perceive risk, how we try to keep our kids safe — whether it’s possible to keep them safe — in what feels like an increasingly threatening world. It raises the question of what, in our time, “safe” could even mean. —-from The Toxic Paradox, February 2009 [my emphases]
How “safe” can we make the world for our children, even before they are born?
Photo by raebrune.