WASHINGTON, 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
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, DC.
"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 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 are available.
"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 of pesticides."
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
When pregnant women are exposed to pesticides and other chemicals,
it appears that their developing babies are exposed too.
The harmful effects of embryonic exposure to one chemical, or a
class of chemicals, has been known for at least a decade.
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 and lactation."
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
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 Reserved.