According to a study from the University of California at San Francisco, fifty-five chemicals never found in humans were found in pregnant women. Chemicals probably come from consumer products or industrial sources, the researchers say.
The findings were published online inside Environmental Science and Technology.
The first authors, Aolin Wang, PhD, and Dimitri Panagopoulos Abrahamsson, PhD, postdoctoral fellows of the UCSF Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and colleagues found 109 chemicals in the blood of pregnant women, including 42 “products mysterious chemicals ”whose sources and uses are unknown. .
The chemicals were also found in their babies, umbilical cord blood tests were shown to suggest the chemicals crossed the placenta.
Among chemicals, 40 are used as plasticizers, 28 are used in cosmetics, another 25 are used in consumer products, 29 as pharmaceuticals, 23 as pesticides, three as flame retardants and seven are PFAS. [per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances] compounds used in multiple applications, including carpets and upholstery, according to the authors.
Lead author Tracey Woodruff, PhD, MPH, characterized her findings as “disturbing.”
She said Medscape Medical News not only is it frustrating to know that chemicals are present, but to know so little about them.
“We know it’s a registered chemical to make it and it’s used commercially, but we don’t know where,” he explained. “It’s very disturbing that we can’t track them down and that demonstrates a failure in public policy and government.”
“Exposures occur without our consent,” said Woodruff, a former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency scientist who runs the Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment (PRHE) and the Center for Environmental Research and Translation for Health (EaRTH), both at UCSF.
He said researchers know from previous studies that when the U.S. government acts to remove harmful chemicals from the market, the levels of those chemicals measured in people decrease.
“Examples include lead, certain PFAS, flame retardants and certain phthalates,” he said. “Thus, public policies can be effective in preventing exposures that can be harmful.”
Technological advances led to discoveries
The team used high-resolution mass spectrometry (HRMS) to identify human-made chemicals in people.
Said Abrahamsson Medscape Medical News that the technology is relatively new in research and had not previously been used to look for chemicals in pregnant women and their babies.
Because scientists often study what other scientists have studied, he said, the chemicals themselves often draw attention. The broader scope that makes new technology possible helps shed light on where to focus future research, he said.
One of the advantages of the technology is that researchers now don’t have to know what chemicals they are looking for when analyzing blood samples, but can observe what appears, he said.
Woodruff said: “We expect this to be additional data and evidence to support government policies that require industries to tell us where they use their chemicals and how we might be exposed to them.”
He said this research will also help identify which chemicals should be prioritized for environmental control.
The mean age of the women in the study was 32 years. Nearly half were Hispanic; 37% were non-Hispanic whites; and 17% were non-Hispanic Asians, Pacific Islanders, and African Americans. Half of the participants were born outside the United States and had lived in the United States for an average of 22 years.
Sean Palfrey, MD, a professor of clinical pediatrics and public health at Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts, said more chemical discoveries like these will occur as technology continues to evolve.
Palfrey, who did not participate in the study, agrees with the authors that there is a lack of oversight over which substances are used in products.
“Our industrial regulations are very deficient and therefore our industries cannot use new and untested substances in their products,” he said. Medscape Medical News.
“This lack of regulation is really important when it turns out we don’t recognize that known and serious toxins are being introduced into food or other products, or when a new class of toxins has been invented that is a serious poison. Most toxins , however, they are discovered in products at very low levels, ”he said.
Palfrey said, however, that it should focus on known and serious toxins that seep into the environment from common products.
“It has taken us decades to ban certain flame retardants from household products,” he said. “TOSCA [the Toxic Substances Control Act passed by Congress in 1976] it was too limited when it was passed decades ago and is now obsolete with fear. Unless we discover a COVID among the toxins discovered in studies like this, we should focus on the great things “.
The authors and Palfrey have not disclosed any relevant financial relationship.
About Sci Technol. Published online March 16, 2021. Summary
Marcia Frellick is a Chicago-based freelance journalist. She has previously written for the Chicago Tribune, Science News and Nurse.com and was editor of the Chicago Sun-Times, the Cincinnati Enquirer and the St. Cloud (Minnesota) Times. Follow her on Twitter at @mfrellick