The bodies of virtually all pregnant women across the United States carry multiple toxic chemicals. Scientists at the University of California, San Francisco detected some chemicals banned since the 1970s and others used in common products such as non-stick cookware, processed foods and personal care products.
The researchers analyzed data for 268 pregnant women from the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey (NHANES) 2003-2004, a nationally representative sample of the U.S. population. Their findings are published in the journal "Environmental Health Perspectives," a publication of the federal government.
"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, PhD, MPH, director of the UCSF Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment.
Analyzing data for 163 chemicals, Woodruff and her team detected polychlorinated biphenyls, PCBs; organochlorine pesticides; perfluorinated compounds, PFCs; phenols; polybrominated diphenyl ethers, PBDEs; phthalates; polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, PAHs; and perchlorate in 99 to 100 percent of pregnant women.
Among the chemicals found in the study group were PBDEs, compounds used as flame retardants now banned in many states including California, and dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, DDT, an organochlorine pesticide banned in the United States in 1972.
Bisphenol A, which makes plastic hard and clear, and is found in epoxy resins that are used to line the inside of metal food and beverage cans, was identified in 96 percent of the women surveyed. Prenatal exposure to BPA has been linked to adverse health outcomes, affecting brain development and increasing susceptibility to cancer later in life, said the researchers.