Scientists at the University of California, San Francisco, discovered 109 chemicals in a study of pregnant women, including 55 previously unreported chemicals in people and 42 mysterious chemicals whose sources and uses are unknown.
The chemicals are likely to come from consumer products or other industrial sources. They are found in the blood of pregnant women, as well as newborns, indicating that they are traveling through the mother’s placenta.
The study will be published on March 17, 2021 Environmental Science and Technology.
“These chemicals may have been present in humans for some time, but our technology is now helping us to identify more of them,” said Tracy J. Woodruff, professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of California, San Francisco.
Woodruff, a former scientist with the Environmental Protection Agency, directs the Reproductive Health and Environment (PRHE) Program and the Center for Environmental Research and Translation for Health (EaRTH), both of which are at UCSF.
“It is alarming that we still see some chemicals being passed from pregnant women to their babies, which means that these chemicals can stay with us for generations,” she said.
The scientific team used high-precision mass spectrometry (HRMS) to identify human-made chemicals in humans.
However, while these chemicals can be initially identified using chemical libraries, they need confirmation by comparing them to the pure chemicals produced by manufacturers known as “analytical standards”. And manufacturers don’t always provide them.
Recently, for example, chemical manufacturer Solvay has stopped providing access to a chemical standard for the perfluorooctanoic acid (PFAS) compound that has emerged as an alternative to the phased-out PFAS compounds. Researchers use this chemical criterion to evaluate the presence and toxicity of a PFAS variant.
“These new technologies are promising to enable us to identify more chemicals in humans, but our study results also demonstrate that chemical manufacturers need to provide analytical criteria so we can confirm the presence of chemicals and assess their toxicity,” said co-lead author Dimitri Panagopoulos Abrahamson, PhD. , Postdoctoral Fellow with PRHE at UCSF.
109 chemists were found in blood samples from pregnant women and newborns in many different types of products. For example, 40 is used as a plasticizer, 28 in cosmetics, 25 in consumer products, 29 as pharmaceuticals, 23 as insecticides, 3 as flame retardants, and 7 as PFAS, which are used in carpet, upholstery and other applications. It’s also possible that all of these chemicals have other uses, the researchers say.
The researchers report that 55 of the 109 chemicals they initially identified seemed to have not been previously reported in people:
- 1 used as a pesticide (bis (2,2,6,6-tetramethyl piperidine-4-j) decanidioate)
- 2 PFASs (methyl perfluoroondicanoate, likely used in the manufacture of non-stick cookware and waterproof fabrics; 2-ethanoic acid perfluorodecyl)
- 10 used as a plasticizer (for example, Sumilizer GA 80 – used in food packaging, paper plates, and small appliances)
- 2 used in cosmetics
- 4 High Production Volume (HPV) chemicals
- 37 has little or no information about its sources or uses (for example, 1- (1-Acetyl-2,2,6,6-tetramethylpiperidin-4-yl) -3-dodecylpyrrolidine-2,5-dione used in perfumery And paints – this chemical is so unknown that there is currently no abbreviation – and (2R0-7-hydroxy-8- (2-hydroxyethyl) -5-methoxy-2-, 3-dihydrochromen-4-one (abbreviation: LL -D) -253alpha), which is not limited to any information about its uses or sources
“It is extremely worrying that we are not able to identify the uses or sources of many of these chemicals,” Woodruff said. “The Environmental Protection Agency should do a better job of asking the chemical industry to standardize its reporting on chemical compounds and uses. They need to use their authority to make sure we have enough information to assess potential health harms and remove chemicals from the market that pose a risk.”
The Authors: Woodruff and Panagopoulos Abrahamson joined in the study, Olin Wang and Marina Sirota from the University of California, San Francisco. Ting Jiang, Miamiao Wang, and Jun Soo Park from the California Environmental Protection Agency; And Rachel Morello Froch from the University of California, Berkeley.
Funding: This study was funded by NIH / NIEHS grant numbers P30-870 ES030284, UG3OD023272, UH3OD023272, P01ES022841, 871R01ES027051, and US EPA grant number 872 RD83543301.
Disclosures: no one
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