Environmental chemicals found in pregnant US women

A study in the US has found that pregnant women are exposed to multiple chemicals, some long banned, which may harm the foetus during certain periods of development. Further research is required to find out where the exposure occurs and any implications for policy making to avoid this exposure.

The data from 268 women who took part in the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey (NHANES 2003-4) was analysed by a team of researchers from the Department of Obstetrics, Gynaecology and Reproductive Sciences, University of California, San Francisco.

Among the chemicals and compounds found were pesticides, DDT and its breakdown product DDE, PBDEs (used as flame retardants), phthalates and perchlorates.  Low-level exposure to some of the chemicals found can lead to birth defects, reproductive problems and cancer. The cumulative risk from exposure to such a broad range of chemicals is only just beginning to be studied.


Environmental Health Perspectives


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First Published in January 2011


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