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A new study published at The University of California, San Francisco, (UCSF) shows that virtually every single pregnant woman in the United States carries multiple harmful environmental chemicals in her body –  some that have been banned for years. The study, published in Environmental Health Perspectives isn’t a huge shock; it’s common knowledge that we’re all exposed to multiple environmental chemicals. However, this is the first study of its kind to focus on the environmental chemical burden of pregnant women in particular. Also significant is the fact that chemicals found during this study are known to cause multiple health consequences and risks to both mother and child.


The Chemical Burden of Pregnant Women

After looking at data of 268 pregnant women, researchers realized that almost all pregnant women are carrying around massive amounts of environmental chemicals in their bodies. Numerous chemicals and pesticides were detected in the bodies of 99% to 100% of all the pregnant women, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), organochlorine pesticides, perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), phenols, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), phthalates, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and perchlorate. Additionally, bisphenol A (BPA) was found in 96% of pregnant women surveyed. This toxic exposure doesn’t just affect pregnant women though. The health consequences of chemicals affect the entire population and include issues such as:

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A Long-term Problem

Worse than the fact that so many chemicals were found in the bodies of pregnant women is the fact that many of the chemicals found are extremely long-lasting substances. Examples include compounds such as PBDEs, (flame retardants) and dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), an organochlorine pesticides. DDT was banned in 1972 and PBDEs are also now banned in many states, yet these substances are still found in pregnant women today – even women born long after the 1972 ban on DDT. This, along with the fact that these chemicals can cross the placenta, indicates that we need better chemical reform now, not later, since many chemicals stick around in the environment long after we officially quit using them.

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Action Needed Now to Stop Environmental Chemicals

According to study lead author Tracey Woodruff, study findings indicate the need for,  “Several courses of action.” First of all, Woodruff notes, additional research is necessary that can help, “Identify dominant sources of exposure to chemicals and how they influence our health, especially in reproduction.” Also, individuals should take action to protect themselves from toxins. However, as Woodruff points out, long-lasting and significant protection from toxins, “Will only result from a systemic approach that includes proactive government policies.

Officially on the books consumers have the insanely outdated and mostly useless Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which does little to protect us from toxic chemicals. Overall, the mass majority of government officials could care less if your family is exposed to toxic chemicals. They’re aligned with the chemical industry and cash flow, not health and safety. It’s up to parents and other citizens to demand better, faster, toxic chemical control. Beyond limiting your family’s exposure to toxic chemicals, there are also some bigger actions you can take, such as:

+ Environmental Health Perspectives

+ UCSF