Pregnant Women Are Exposed to These Common Chemicals, According to a New Study

  • Researchers discovered that plastics, insecticides, and other sources expose pregnant women to a variety of potentially hazardous substances.
  • Food, water, air, dust, and personal care items can all expose pregnant women to toxins.

According to the largest study of its type, a broad group of pregnant women in the United States was exposed to a variety of potentially dangerous substances from plastics, pesticides, and other sources.

Some chemicals were substitutes for others that have been prohibited or phased out due to their toxicity. Many people in the research were exposed to neonicotinoid insecticides, which have also been linked to bee population loss. a reliable source

Chemicals in food, water, air, dust, personal care, and other consumer products can all be harmful to pregnant women. Many of these pollutants can be passed on to an unborn child.

"This study contributes to a better understanding of which — and how much — certain chemicals individuals are exposed to," said study author John Meeker, ScD, a professor of environmental health sciences and global public health at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.

According to him, this information could help researchers focus their efforts on the substances that pregnant women are most exposed to. This includes learning more about the chemicals' detrimental health impacts as well as how individuals are exposed to them.


It's vital to remember that not everyone who was born feminine identifies with the term "woman." While we strive to offer information that is inclusive of and reflective of our readers' diverse backgrounds, specificity is critical when reporting on study participants and clinical outcomes. Participants that are transgender, nonbinary, gender nonconforming, genderqueer, agender, or genderless were not included in the study mentioned in this article.

Women's chemical exposures are measured by researchers.

The study comprised 171 pregnant women from five states and Puerto Rico: California, Georgia, Illinois, New Hampshire, and New York. About 60% of the participants identified as Black or Hispanic, whereas 34% were non-Hispanic white.

The National Institutes of Health's Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO)Trusted Source initiative included women.

The findings were published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology on May 10th.

Women's exposure to 103 chemicals from pesticides and plastics, including replacement compounds for BPA and phthalates, was measured using urine samples collected from 2017 to 2020.

Women's exposure to 89 analytes or chemical compounds representing 103 chemicals was measured using urine samples taken from 2017 to 2020. Pesticides and plastics compounds, as well as BPA and phthalate substitutes, were among them.

Researchers looked for biomarkers of those compounds in the urine, which may be the drugs themselves or metabolites formed when they break down in the body.

At least one lady in the study tested positive for almost 80% of the biomarkers. Furthermore, 40 percent were discovered in more than half of the women.

This is the "most thorough study of chemical exposures in pregnant women," according to Barbara Cohn, Ph.D., MPH, researcher, and head of the Public Health Institute's Child Health and Development Studies.

She also stated that researchers concentrated their attention on substances that are most likely to be dangerous.

"This is not a random list of chemicals; rather, it is a focused list of compounds where the concern is founded on valid science," she explained, citing research from population science, epidemiology, experimental toxicology, environmental science, and engineering.

Phthalates and phthalate substitutes, for example, were one set of analytes studied by the researchers. These compounds increase the durability of polymers and can be found in vinyl flooring and personal care products such as soaps and shampoos. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, phthalates have been reported to influence animal reproductive health, and their effects on human health in low quantities are unknown. a reliable source

The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES)Trusted Source, a long-term study on the health of adults and children in the United States, does not currently track several of the biomarkers identified in the majority of women.


In truth, NHANES does not track the great majority of the country's hundreds of chemicals. This includes compounds that are suspected to be hazardous as well as alternatives to chemicals that are being phased out.

"When this [lack of monitoring] is paired with the existing posture in this nation — which tends to be 'innocent until proven guilty when it comes to regulating chemicals," Meeker added, "it results in the potential for overexposure to numerous potentially dangerous substances."

"If you don't quantify harmful compounds in humans, you can't determine the degree of their existence," Cohn concurred. Ignorance is a deadly form of government policy."


Chemical exposure is higher in certain categories.

Anyone who is pregnant or has a developing fetus should be concerned about chemical exposure.

"Not only are pregnant women vulnerable during the tremendous changes that come with pregnancy," Cohn explained, "but they are also carrying the next generation during a highly sensitive window of vulnerability to toxic exposures."

Women with a lower education level, those who were single, and those who had been exposed to cigarettes had greater quantities of potentially dangerous compounds, according to the new study.


Hispanic women were exposed to more parabens, which are often used as preservatives in cosmetics, as well as phthalates and bisphenols, which are used in plastics.

"There are significant inequalities in chemical exposure," according to Meeker, "which may very well contribute to recognized discrepancies in unfavorable pregnancy and infant development outcomes."

According to Cohn, studies like these must include a varied range of subjects in order to determine whether some groups are more affected by chemical exposure.

"There is evidence that harmful chemical exposure during pregnancy can have long-term health repercussions for mothers, their children, and future generations," she said.


Cohn has spent decades studying the health consequences of hazardous chemicals on mothers, their children, and granddaughters during pregnancy.

"Notably, granddaughters of women who were exposed to [the prohibited pesticide] DDT during pregnancy face severe health risks, including greater rates of obesity and menstrual periods beginning before the age of 11," she said.

She went on to say that this could put the granddaughters at risk for breast cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other ailments. DDT has been prohibited in the United States since 1972.


To address risks, public policy and advocacy are required.

According to Meeker, there are several things pregnant women can do to lower their risk of chemical overexposure.

This includes reducing their use of potentially dangerous chemicals in personal care and other items, as well as limiting their pesticide use and exposure.

"However, we must be mindful that many of these interventions may not be equally available to all women," he added, adding that this could "raise inequities in exposure and bad health."

As a result, it's critical to move away from holding individuals completely accountable for decreasing their own chemical hazards.


"While people can make certain decisions to decrease their exposures, many exposures are beyond their control and can only be addressed by public policy and consumer activism," Cohn added.

She also stated that because humans are exposed to a wide range of chemicals at various levels, it is unrealistic to expect science to be able to determine the precise harms of chemicals and which amounts are dangerous.

However, this does not negate the importance of taking action to safeguard people's health.

"The evidence here appears to support the concept of precaution," Cohn said. "This means that individuals, industry, and our society could commit to reducing these exposures even before harm is fully documented or understood."

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