of Pesticides and Other Toxic Chemicals Pollute the Womb
(Beyond Pesticides, July 15, 2005) A new report by the Washington, DC-based environmental organization, Environmental Working Group, and the Bolinas, CA-based health and environmental research group Commonweal, finds that industrial pollution begins in the womb. Not long ago, scientists believed that fetuses were largely protected from most toxic chemicals. The new study, Body Burden: The Pollution in Newborns, helps confirm an opposite view: that chemical exposure begins in the womb, as hundreds of industrial chemicals, pollutants and pesticides are pumped back and forth from mother to baby through umbilical cord blood.
Environmental Working Group (EWG) commissioned laboratory tests of 10 American Red Cross cord blood samples for the most extensive array of industrial chemicals, pesticides and other pollutants ever studied. The group found that the babies averaged 200 contaminants in their blood. The pollutants included mercury, fire retardants, pesticides and the Teflon chemical PFOA. In total, the babies' blood had 287 chemicals, including 209 never before detected in cord blood.
The blood samples came from babies born in U.S. hospitals in August and September of 2004. The study, called Body Burden: The Pollution in Newborns, tested each sample of umbilical cord blood for an unprecedented 413 industrial and consumer product chemicals. The study is part of an important new science that measures toxins in people — the human body burden.
"For years scientists have studied pollution in the air, water, land and in our food. Recently they've investigated its health impacts on adults. Now we find this pollution is reaching babies during vital stages of development," said EWG Vice President for Research Jane Houlihan. “These findings raise questions about the gaps in our federal safety net. Instead of rubber-stamping almost every new chemical that industry invents, we've got to strengthen and modernize the laws that are supposed to protect Americans from pollutants.”
U.S. industries manufacture and import approximately 75,000 chemicals, 3,000 of them at over a million pounds per year. Yet health officials do not know how many of these chemicals pollute fetal blood and what the health consequences of in utero exposures might be. Many of these chemicals require specialized techniques to detect. Chemical manufacturers are not required to make available to the public or government health officials methods to detect their chemicals in humans, and most do not volunteer them. EWG says that had it been able to test for more chemicals, it would almost certainly have detected them.