There’s a new research study that will knock your socks off. According to researchers from the University of California-San Francisco (UCSF), an overwhelming percentage of all pregnant women in the United States are carrying around dozens of highly toxic environmental chemicals in their blood and urine. Some of these chemicals have been banned since the 1970s.

This study, which is published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, is the first to count the number of chemicals that pregnant women are exposed to. The researchers examined data on 163 chemicals, and studied the blood and urine samples of 268 pregnant women. (The samples were collected as part of the CDC’s 2003-2004 National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey.)

Chemicals Found in 99 Percent of All Pregnant Women

After analyzing the data, the researchers were shocked to find that 43 of the 163 chemicals were found in 99 percent of all the pregnant women. Some of these chemicals have been illegal since the 1970s, while others can be found in beauty products, non-stick cookware, and furniture.

Chemicals found in the pregnant women studied include polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which previous studies have linked to potentially causing cancer, skin and eye problems, reduced birth weight and premature births; organochlorine pesticides, which may cause cancer, fertility problems, birth defects and developmental problems; perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), which have caused cancer, liver and kidney damage, and reproductive problems in laboratory animals; polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), which is a potential carcinogen, or cancer-causing substance. In animal studies, PBDE exposure has harmed the developing brain and nervous system, leading to learning and memory deficits and behavioral problems; phthalates, which is another potential carcinogen. This chemical has also been linked to birth defects, such as cleft palate and defects in male reproductive organs; polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which may cause cancer, reproductive problems, and low birth weight babies; and benzophenone-3, which is an ingredient found in sunscreen.

What might shock you the most about this study – The researchers found that 96 percent of the pregnant women had Bisphenol A (BPA) in their blood and urine. BPA is a carcinogen and suspected endocrine disruptor – which means that it may interfere with or block hormones.

In animal tests, low-exposure to BPA in the womb caused the male laboratory animals to have larger prostate, shrunken sperm-carrying ducts, and low sperm counts. In the female mice exposed to BPA, they experienced early puberty and a 20 percent increase in their body weight. In both male and female mice, BPA exposure increased miscarriages and birth defects.

Why the high percent of pregnant women with BPA? BPA is still used as a liner inside beverage cans and metal food cans.

The Study Proves that Chemicals Endure

What makes this research study so interesting is that it shows the endurance of these chemicals. The pregnant women in the study ranged from 15 to 44. Some of the chemicals found in 99 percent of these women’s blood and urine have been outlawed for longer than the women have been alive.

For example, the researchers found that almost all of the pregnant women had a broken-down form of DDT (a pesticide which was outlawed in the United States in 1972) in their bodies.

What you can infer from this finding is that these substances stay in a woman’s body and stays there for a very long period of time.

Should Pregnant Women be Worried?

This research study only looked at the number of chemicals that pregnant women are carrying. It didn’t examine the long-term health effects of the babies. Further research will be needed in order to look at those implications.

But this study does pose a major concern – are you exposing your unborn baby to harmful chemicals without even knowing it? Every household cleaner, every pot and pan you use, even shampoo can have chemicals in it that may be harmful. This study should open you eyes to the reality of every day chemicals. Some of them are harmless, but others could be toxic. So pay attention to the products that you use. Read labels and ingredients list.

The researchers have several tips and precautions for pregnant women:

  • Eat a balanced diet that’s low in fat. Some of these harmful chemicals like to cling to fat.
  • Wash your hands throughout the day. Dust can harbor unhealthy chemicals.
  • Don’t microwave your food in plastic. Use ceramic or glass, if possible.
  • When buying personal care products, choose them wisely. Consider spending extra and buying products that have fewer, less toxic ingredients.

To read the abstract of the study, go to Environmental Chemicals in Pregnant Women in the US.

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DP Nguyen

DP Nguyen is founder and editor of Hip Chick's Guide to PMS, Pregnancy and Babies. She’s an expert pregnancy and women’s health blogger. She is NOT a medical doctor and does NOT offer medical advice. Connect with her on Google+, Twitter and Facebook.


Marilen_f · January 19, 2011 at 4:00 am

Following you too:) Great blog.. If a container says BPA free, does it mean it is safe to microwave food in it?:) Thanks so much. My baby just began solids, want to make sure I’m doing things right. Books say always microwave food from the freezer..

    Anonymous · January 19, 2011 at 4:12 am

    I would not microwave any plastic, even if it says BPA-free. Use glass or ceramic container instead. They are much safer, and you don’t run the risk of the chemicals leaching out into the food. Good luck!

Savvy and Sassy · January 18, 2011 at 4:11 pm

Really scary how many products have potentially harmful chemicals! Thanks for following, I am now following you back. 🙂

R. · January 16, 2011 at 8:45 pm

Hi. You found me on bloggymoms, so I am commenting and following you now. I’d love for you to read and follow my blog too. Your blog is full of GREAT information. Thanks so much! Rachel

Danipender · January 16, 2011 at 11:52 pm

I am totally about reducing toxic chemicals in our homes!

New to following you.

Megan · January 16, 2011 at 11:11 pm

I am already a follower 🙂 Hope you follow back!

Amy Snyder · January 16, 2011 at 4:47 pm

Thanks for linking up to Sensational Sunday Follow from Harvest For Tomorrow. I have been following you for awhile now. =)

Momdaughterstyle · January 16, 2011 at 12:13 am

Hi DP, I am already your follower before. I tried to follow you again but it wouldn’t let me. Thank you so much for following my new blog.

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