DC, July 14, 2005 (ENS): Exposure to hundreds
of toxic chemicals begins in the womb, finds a new study
of the umbilical cord blood of 10 American newborns
commissioned by the Environmental Working Group. The
research and advocacy organization asked a lab to test
10 American Red Cross cord blood samples for what the
group claims is the most extensive array of industrial
chemicals, pesticides and other pollutants ever studied.
The group wanted to measure how early the human body
burden of chemicals begins to accumulate. The lab tests
found that hundreds of industrial chemicals, pollutants
and pesticides are pumped back and forth from mother
to fetus through umbilical cord blood.
The blood samples came from babies born in U.S. hospitals
in August and September of 2004. Analysis conducted
on the samples for 413 industrial and consumer product
chemicals found that the babies averaged 200 contaminants
in their blood.
The analysis tested for pollutants including mercury,
fire retardants, pesticides and a chemical used in the
production of Teflon, PFOA. In total, the babies' blood
had 287 chemicals, including 209 never before detected
in cord blood.
"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 Jane Houlihan, EWG vice president
for research, from the group's office in Washington,
"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 some 75,000 chemicals.
The current regulatory system does not require comprehensive
testing of chemicals before they are put into products
and it does not provide authority to the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) to prevent harmful chemicals
from being used in products and released into the environment.
The EPA has issued regulations to control only nine
chemicals since the enactment of the federal Toxic Substances
Control Act in 1976. The EWG points out that the system
allows chemicals with known hazards and clear health
impacts to remain on the market, even when safer alternatives
"Our wombs are no place for poisons. Our babies
have the right to be born toxic-free," said Laurie
Valeriano, Policy Director of the Washington Toxics
Coalition and mother of three.
"It's time for a complete overhaul of the current
system," said Valeriano. "Government should
phase out very harmful chemicals and industry must substitute
safer substances when they are available. There is no
reason consumer products should be filled with chemicals
that poison babies when there are safer alternatives."
There is other evidence that chemicals harm embryos.
Physicians for Social Responsibility has said, "It
is clear that the developing fetus, infants and young
children are particularly sensitive to the harmful effects
Each year, Americans use over 4.5 billion pounds of
pesticides, including about one billion pounds of "conventional"
pesticides used in agriculture, industry, home and garden,
says the Physicians for Social Responsibility. "Every
day, we are unknowingly exposed to a variety of pesticides
in our food, drinking water, homes, schools and offices."
When pregnant women are exposed to pesticides and other
chemicals, it appears that their developing babies are
The harmful effects of embryonic exposure to one chemical,
or a class of chemicals, has been known for at least
Large numbers and large quantities of endocrine-disrupting
chemicals have been released into the environment since
World War II.
A 1993 study of exposure to these endocrine disrupters
conducted by scientists with the W. Alton Jones Foundation
and World Wildlife Fund, among others, found that, "Many
of these chemicals can disturb development of the endocrine
system and of the organs that respond to endocrine signals
in organisms indirectly exposed during prenatal and/or
early postnatal life; effects of exposure during development
are permanent and irreversible."
The scientists found that, "transgenerational exposure
can result from the exposure of the mother to a chemical
at any time throughout her life before producing offspring
due to persistence of endocrine-disrupting chemicals
in body fat, which is mobilized during ... pregnancy
The EWG study comes at a useful time for residents
of Washington State. The Washington State Department
of Ecology is seeking public input on a rule to implement
the state's strategy to eliminate persistent toxic chemicals
including mercury, dioxin, and toxic flame retardants.
"This rule is Washington’s opportunity to
take action now to stem the tide of toxic chemicals
our children are exposed to on a daily basis,”
said Ivy Sager-Rosenthal, environmental health advocate
for the Washington Toxics Coalition.
s A coalition of groups, the Toxic-Free Legacy Coalition,
is urging Washington state to include "a comprehensive,
scientifically defensible, list of persistent toxic
chemicals and establish clear goals and timelines for
elimination" in the rule.
The coalition would like the state to include phthalates,
chemicals used to soften vinyl plastic and in cosmetics,
on the list of chemicals to be phased out. These chemicals
were recently linked to reproductive problems in male
infants. They were banned across Europe earlier this
The EWG study, "Body Burden: The Pollution in
Newborns," is online at: www.ewg.org/reports/bodyburden2/
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2005. All Rights