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Chemicals found in pregnant women may hurt babies

University of California at San Francisco researchers found nearly all U.S. pregnant women carry a variety of chemicals in their bodies, including some used in common consumer products and banned since the 1970s.

The study, published on Jan. 14 in Environmental Health Perspectives showed 99 to 100 percent of 269 pregnant women had had been contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), organochlorine pesticides, perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), phenols, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), phthalates, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and perchlorate out of 163 chemicals.

"It was surprising and concerning to find so many chemicals in pregnant women without fully knowing the implications for pregnancy," said lead author Tracey Woodruff, director of the UCSF Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment.

Among the chemicals, PBDEs used as flame retardants now are banned in many states and dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane ( DDT) was banned in the U.S. in 1972.

And Bisphenol A (BPA), used in the food and beverage containers was found in 96 percent of the participants.

Pregnant women exposure to BPA has been linked to health problems, influencing brain development and increasing susceptibility to cancer later in life.

Woodruff said several of these chemicals in pregnant women were at the same concentrations that have been associated with negative effects in children from other studies. In addition, exposure to multiple chemicals that can increase the risk of the same adverse health outcome can have a greater impact than exposure to just one chemical.

And exposure to the chemicals during fetal development may cause preterm birth, birth defects, childhood morbidity and adult disease.


Stephen Lau and editing by Aimee Keenan-Greene