Friday, January 14, 2011

New California Study Shows High Incidence of Chemicals in Pregnant Women

A study published online today in Environmental Health Perspectives shows widespread evidence of many common chemicals in pregnant women.  The authors, who are at the University of California in San Francisco, "analyzed biomonitoring data from the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey (NHANES) to characterize both individual and multiple chemical exposures in U.S. pregnant women."  Data for a total of 268 women were examined for 163 chemical analytes in 12 chemical classes.  According to the abstract,
We calculated the number of chemicals detected within the following chemical classes; polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), organochlorine pesticides, and phthalates, and across multiple chemical classes. 
Results showed that "the percent of pregnant women with detectable levels of an individual chemical ranged from 0 to 100 percent."  For "certain PCBs, organochlorine pesticides, PFCs, phenols, PBDEs, phthalates, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and perchlorate" there was detection in "99 to 100% of pregnant women."  Interestingly, while much is being said about levels in pregnant women, the authors report that these levels were "similar or lower than levels in non-pregnant women."

Needless to say, the fact that pregnant women can be exposed to, and have detected, multiple chemicals raises the risk of transferring those chemicals to the growing fetus.  Other studies have demonstrated that umbilical cord blood and newborns often may already carry a body burden of chemicals.  Advocacy groups like Safer Chemicals Healthy Families were quick to jump on the results, saying:
"These findings should be a call to action for Congress and the Administration." said Andy Igrejas, director of the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition. "We've known for years that exposures in the womb to toxic chemicals have a profound effect on the health of children. Here we have confirmation that pregnant women are carrying these chemicals around in their bodies." 
TSCA reform bills, of course, were introduced in the last Congress and are expected to be ignored by the newly elected Congress, though both industry and advocacy groups hope that the new House leadership will make some effort to modernize the 34 year old law.  All parties seem to agree that a new law is needed; the questions now are what such a law would look like, and more fundamentally, whether any action will be taken at all given the divided Congress.

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