Two different studies from the Environmental Working Group examined newborn’s blood, and found over 200+ toxins in newborn’s blood! Some of these toxins were pesticides, Bisphenol A, mercury, some are known to cause cancer, and some are known to be neurotoxic. The babies were exposed in utero to these chemicals directly from the mother’s exposure. Some of these toxins can have an immediate affect, such as low birth weight. But some cause problems later in the child’s life. There is a phenomenon called bioaccumulation,where small amounts of toxin are absorbed, but as the baby grows, these small amounts build up and become toxic to the child. These toxins can come from multiple sources; food, air, and even makeup.
Bioaccumulation refers to the accumulation of substances, such as pesticides, or other chemicals in an organism. Bioaccumulation occurs when an organism absorbs a – possibly toxic – substance at a rate faster than that at which the substance is lost by catabolism and excretion. Thus, the longer the biological half-life of a toxic substance the greater the risk of chronic poisoning, even if environmental levels of the toxin are not very high. Bioaccumulation, for example in fish, can be predicted by models. Hypotheses for molecular size cutoff criteria for use as bioaccumulation potential indicators are not supported by data. Biotransformation can strongly modify bioaccumulation of chemicals in an organism.
A healthy environment is important during pregnancy. In a recent study, it was found that pregnant women who were living in cities with higher pollution were more likely to give birth to underweight babies. Clearly, exposure to a high toxin burden, can adversely affect your babies growth.
Mothers may want to read labels on products for babies and children — and look out for the toxic ingredients;
- Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS): a surfactant, detergent and emulsifier used in shampoos, toothpastes, cosmetics and industrial cleaners.
- Fragrance: Often contains dozens, even hundreds of synthetic compounds — used in shampoos, deodorants and other personal care.
- Polyethylene glycols (PEGS): emollient and emulsifier used in skin care products.
Other steps to reduce toxin exposure
- Eat fresh, whole, unprocessed foods
- Choose organic (versus conventional) produce
- Buy grass-fed meats and dairy products from pasture-raised animals
- Filter your tap water
- Swap out commercial brands of personal care products for those that use organic and natural ingredients
- Avoid wearing fragrance or using products with artificial fragrance
- Avoid or reduce your exposure to cigarette smoke
- Choose non-toxic household cleaners
In a series of innovative, multi-institutional studies, Rolf Halden, a researcher at Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute, has tracked the effects of a wide range of chemicals on human health and the environment. In a pair of studies appearing in the journal Environmental Research and the advanced online edition of the Journal of Hazardous Materials, Halden and collaborators examine human exposure to several common chemicals and evaluate resulting health outcomes in mothers and infants.
In the first of these studies, Halden’s team explores the effects of methyl mercury on blood pressure in pregnant women, while a companion paper provides the first evidence linking common chemicals found in cosmetics (known as parabens), as well as the antimicrobial agent triclocarban, to measurable adverse health effects in newborns who have been exposed to these chemicals in the womb.
The studies significantly add to the still-limited information on threats posed by methyl mercury, parabens and antimicrobials to fetal and maternal well-being. They also raise questions about whether more aggressive steps are warranted to help society avoid harmful exposures and their consequences.
“These new studies reveal the presence of environmental toxicants in U.S. babies at birth and provide the first insights into possible associations between chemical uptake and adverse birth and health outcomes,” Halden said.
In a second study, Halden and his colleagues examine birth outcomes for an immigrant population in Brooklyn, New York, following chemical exposure. Earlier studies have suggested that fetal exposure to antimicrobials and paraben compounds (common ingredients in many cosmetics) can adversely affect health.
Previous research by Halden’s group confirmed elevated levels of these chemicals in both mothers and developing fetuses. The new study advances this work by presenting the first human data examining effects on the health of newborns from fetal exposure to these chemicals. The study evaluates a range of variables in the newborns, including birth weight, body length and head size, and gestational age at birth, assessing 185 mothers and 34 neonates in New York, from 2007-2009.
Measurement of chemical concentrations involved testing the urine and umbilical cord blood plasma from mothers in their third trimester. The results provide the first positive associations between exposure to antimicrobial agents and adverse health outcomes for newborns. The findings are consistent with animal models of antimicrobial and paraben exposure, which suggest these chemicals can act as potent disrupters of the hormonal or endocrine system.
Parabens, triclosan and triclocarban fall under the general heading of environmental phenols. They have a propensity to cause hormonal disturbances to fetuses, both in the womb and following birth. Mothers are exposed to these chemicals primarily through the use of cosmetics and personal-care products containing them. Fetuses get exposed in the womb through the placenta and newborns also can ingest residues of such chemicals contained in breast milk.
Parabens not only appear in cosmetics, but also as preservatives in various foods. They have been found to influence estrogen levels, suggesting they may be toxic to the reproductive system. Two antimicrobial agents known as triclosan and triclocarban (TCS and TCC) have found their way into a vast array of common products from personal care to industrial cleaning, and also display a potential for endocrine disruption.
Credit: Arizona State University