PCBs, Other Toxins Found in Pregnant Women

A variety of chemicals, some of which have been banned for decades, have been found, overwhelmingly, in the blood and urine of pregnant American women, said a UCSF study, wrote the San Francisco Gate. The chemicals’ ubiquity spans cookware, furniture, cosmetics, and processed foods. The study is being published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

This is the first time, said the SF Gate, that the number of different chemicals to which expectant mothers are exposed has been identified, wrote the authors. A total of 163 chemicals were studied and 43 were found in just about every one of the 268 pregnant women involved in the studied, said the SF Gate. Chemicals included plychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), organochlorine pesticides, polybrominated diphenyl ethers, and phthalates. Some of the chemicals had been banned prior to the birth of any of these women noted the SF Gate. The women ranged in age from 15 to 44 years of age.

PCBs have been banned since the 1970s, but were widely used in construction and are broadly known in recent months for their presence in the New York City public school system. Polybrominated diphenyl ethers, are also banned and were used as flame retardants, while phthalates, some of which are banned in children’s products, are known hormone disrupters.

Lead author Tracey Woodruff, director of the UCSF Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment, said that the research proves that these toxins have the ability to endure in the human body and in the environment—something we have long noted when writing about many of these contaminants. And, said Woodruff, while we can reduce, we can not eliminate our exposure to these dangerous chemicals, said the SF Gate. “We want to show people this is an issue we want the government to pay attention to and address,” she said, quoted the SF Gate.

PCBs, organochlorine pesticides, perfluorinated compounds, phenols, PBDEs, phthalates, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and perchlorate were found in 99 to 100 percent of the women, said the SF Gate. Bisphenol A (BPA) a polycarbonate plastic and known hormone disrupter, was found in 96 percent of the women. A so-called “broken down” form of the pesticide, DDT, which was banned in the U.S. in 1972, was found in just about every woman, said the SF Gate.

Dr. Sarah Janssen, senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council in San Francisco, said that while some exposure levels were low, there is concern regarding the harm to unborn children that is inadvertently passed along from mothers and their exposure to the cocktail of chemicals that persist and that are constantly being introduced into the environment, reported the SF Gate.

“The study’s results show that unborn babies are exposed to a soup of chemicals—and furthermore, because the women in the study were tested for exposure to only a fraction of chemicals on the market—the study also suggests that pregnant women are likely carrying and passing onto their fetuses many more chemicals than have been reported here,” she said, quoted the SF Gate.

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