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Pesticides Detected in Blood of Newborns

Hundreds of Toxic Chemicals & Pesticides Detected in the Blood of Newborn Infants in the USA

From: Environment News Service <

Toxic Chemicals By the Hundred Found in Blood of Newborns

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 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, DC.

Environmental Working Group Vice President for Research Jane Houlihan is an environmental engineer whose research focuses on human health and environmental exposures with an emphasis on risks to infants and young children. (Photo courtesy Ohio Citizen Action)

"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 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 and offices."

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.

Human fetus in the fourth month, with a view of the umbilical cord (Photo courtesy Stanford University) 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. 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 month.

The EWG study, "Body Burden: The Pollution in Newborns," is online at:

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