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Scientists detect 55 chemicals in pregnant women never before seen in humans

US scientists detect 55 chemicals in blood of pregnant women and their children that have never before been reported in humans and are linked to plastics and cosmetics – along with 42 ‘mystery’ compounds

  • Scientists discovered 96 unique and strange chemicals in pregnant women
  • The team found the chemicals in their blood and newborn babies as well
  • This suggests the chemicals are traveling to the baby through the placenta 
  • Approximately 55 chemicals have never been reported in the human body
  • The other 42 have no source or use – but experts say they come from products
  • This includes plastics, cosmetics and even construction material 

Scientists detected 109 chemicals during a study of 30 pregnant women, including 55 never seen in humans and 42 ‘mystery chemicals’  with no sources or known uses.

It is also believed that all 96 chemicals have long been in the body, but have only now been detected through the use of high-resolution spectrometry – a technology that has become accessible in just the last decade. 

A team at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) observed the chemicals in the women’s blood as well as in their newborn children, suggesting they are traveling through the mother’s placenta.

Although the chemicals are unknown, researchers suspect they most likely came from consumer products such as cosmetics and plastics. 

Scientists detected 109 chemicals during a study of pregnant women, including 55 never seen in humans and 42 ‘mystery chemicals’ with no sources or known uses. Scientists observed the chemicals in the women’s blood as well as in their newborn children

High-resolution spectrometry (HRMS) was first developed some 50 years ago, but it was only in the last 10 years was it made affordable to the scientific community.

This powerful tool is capable of analyzing dissolved organic matter by striking it with a beam of light that shines through a sample and breaks it into different pieces based on the particles, Popular Mechanics reports.

And each chemical element and compound in the sample produces its own signature, allowing scientists to determine them individually.

The team from UCSF collected 60 blood samples from 30 different pregnant women, along with 30 samples from their umbilical cords.

The team from UCSF collected 60 blood samples from 30 different pregnant women, along with 30 samples from their umbilical cords (stock photo)

The team from UCSF collected 60 blood samples from 30 different pregnant women, along with 30 samples from their umbilical cords (stock photo)

Through HRMS, the analysis revealed 662 chemical signatures when hit with positive ions and 788 with negative.

Researchers then combined similar samples, sorted them and identified 109 unique results – many of which derived from different consumer products.

Approximately 40 are used as plasticizers, 28 in cosmetics, 25 in consumer products, 29 as pharmaceuticals, 23 as pesticides and three as flame retardants.

The team also identified seven are PFAS compounds that the EPA states are a group of man-made chemicals’ that has been ‘manufactured and used in a variety of industries around the globe, including in the United States, since the 1940s.’

These compounds are mostly used in carpeting and upholstery, among other construction-like tasks.

The plasticizers, according to the study, most likely came from food packaging and plastic utensils, along with appliances.

Approximately 40 are used as plasticizers (this includes plastic food containers), 28 in cosmetics, 25 in consumer products, 29 as pharmaceuticals, 23 as pesticides and three as flame retardants

Approximately 40 are used as plasticizers (this includes plastic food containers), 28 in cosmetics, 25 in consumer products, 29 as pharmaceuticals, 23 as pesticides and three as flame retardants

Tracey J. Woodruff, PhD, a professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at UCSF, said: ‘These chemicals have probably been in people for quite some time, but our technology is now helping us to identify more of them.

‘It’s very concerning that we are unable to identify the uses or sources of so many of these chemicals.’

‘EPA must do a better job of requiring the chemical industry to standardize its reporting of chemical compounds and uses.

‘And they need to use their authority to ensure that we have adequate information to evaluate potential health harms and remove chemicals from the market that pose a risk.’

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