Pregnancy checkup

‘Forever chemicals’ found in blood of pregnant women

PFAS also found in babies’ umbilical cord blood, showing chemicals had crossed the placenta
17 August 2023 , Steve Smethurst

Charities call for “urgent action” to stop unnecessary use of harmful chemicals in order to protect environment and reduce risk to people’s health

Chemicals used in plastic production and PFAS (‘forever chemicals’) that are associated with an increased risk of poor pregnancy outcomes have been found in pregnant women in a US study.

Researchers at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) found the chemicals in the blood of pregnant women, creating increased health risks such as gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia and hypertension.

The findings add to a growing body of evidence showing that many of the chemicals people are routinely exposed to are leading to subtle but harmful changes in health.

Tracey Woodruff, Professor and Director of the Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment at UCSF said: “The association between these chemicals and an increased risk of poor pregnancy outcomes should be a wake-up call.

“I hope policymakers and regulators will take a good, hard look at the results of this study and others that show a link between plastic chemicals and PFAS and health harms.”

Dr Anna Watson, Director of Policy and Advocacy, CHEM Trust said: “The more we look, the more we find that our bodies and the natural world are polluted by PFAS. And the list of diseases and harm that they are associated with continues to grow.

She added: “The researchers also found PFAS chemicals in the umbilical cord blood of the babies, showing that PFAS had crossed the placenta. These are the most persistent chemicals that humans have ever made and they will continue to build up in the environment.

“Until we see comprehensive bans on these chemicals brought in urgently, we are not going to be able to protect ourselves, our children and nature from this pollution crisis.”

Dr Clare Cavers, Senior Project Manager at environmental charity Fidra, said: “The findings that PFOS and PFHxS, two PFAS that are now banned globally, can pass to children in the womb should be ringing alarm bells.

“Urgent action is needed to stop all avoidable and unnecessary use of these harmful chemicals, reducing their emissions to the environment and in turn the risk to our and our children’s health.”

“It is obvious that we are out of control when it comes to the vast number of chemicals that are allowed to be produced and used without almost any upfront scrutiny.”

Dr Anna Lennquist, Senior Toxicologist at the International Chemical Secretariat (Chemsec) said it was important to get a better understanding of the effects of the man-made chemicals in our blood.

“These type of studies help clarifying this and it is not a very pretty picture,” she said. “It is obvious that we are out of control when it comes to the vast number of chemicals that are allowed to be produced and used without almost any upfront scrutiny.

“It is therefore urgent to extend the regulation to cover all the thousands of very similar PFAS substances that are still in production and use. In the EU there is a proposal for a broad restriction of PFAS, but it is under very heavy pressure from industry and we do not know yet what the final regulation will look like.”

Image credit: Shutterstock

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