Scientists from the University of California San Francisco have detected 109 chemicals in a study of pregnant women. A total of 55 chemicals never reported before, and an additional 42 “mystery chemicals” were also reported.
The chemicals are likely the result of industrial sources or consumer products. They were discovered both in the blood of pregnant women and their newborn children, which suggests that they are shared via the mother’s placenta.
The research was released on March 16, 2021, in Environmental Science & Technology.
Tracey J. Woodruff, PhD, and professor of obstetrics, gynaecology 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.”
An ex U.S. Environmental Protection Agency scientist, Woodruff, is in charge of the Program on Reproductive Health and the Environmental (PRHE) and the Environmental Research and Translation for Health (EaRTH) Center, both ongoing at UCSF.
“It is alarming that we keep seeing certain chemicals travel from pregnant women to their children, which means these chemicals can be with us for generations,” she added.
The research was carried out via high-resolution mass spectrometry (HRMS) to find human-made chemicals in individuals.
However, though the chemicals can be tentatively identified via chemical libraries, they must be confirmed by comparing them to pure chemicals made by manufacturers that are referred to as “analytical standards.”
Still, manufacturers don’t always make them available.
The discovered chemicals are pretty peculiar as 40 of them can be used as plasticizers, 25 are found in consumer products, 28 are found in cosmetics, 23 are pesticides, 29 are pharmaceuticals, three are flame retardants, and seven are PFAS compounds, typically found in carpeting, upholstery and other applications.