Long-banned chemicals have been detected in the blood and urine of pregnant women in a study highlighting the ability of some potentially harmful substances to endure in the environment and the human body.
The chemicals found in the 268 pregnant women studied included substances banned since the 1970s and others used in items such as nonstick cookware, furniture, processed foods and beauty products.
The study by researchers from the University of California at San Francisco, appearing in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, is the first to count the number of chemicals to which pregnant women are exposed, the authors said.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the 163 chemicals tracked in the study included polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs, which have been linked to cancer and other health problems; organochlorine pesticides; polybrominated diphenyl ethers, banned compounds used as flame retardants; and phthalates, which have been to shown to cause hormone disruption. Of those chemicals, 43 were found in more than 99 percent of the pregnant women.
“We should be concerned about the number of chemicals pregnant women have in their bodies and we should we taking steps to find out what the implications are for exposure to multiple chemicals,” lead author Tracey Woodruff, director of the UCSF Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment, told Time’s Healthland website.
The study focused on pregnant women because of the potential for exposure to multiple chemicals to hurt their unborn fetuses. Dr. Sarah Janssen, senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council in San Francisco, said the levels of exposure shown in the study were low, but she was concerned about fetal harm that could be caused by the mother’s exposure to multiple chemicals acting together.
The American Chemistry Council, a trade association, responded to the study with a statement that said research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found the mere presence of a chemical in the body does not mean that it will cause negative health effects.