Scientists Find 42 Never-Before-Seen Chemicals in Pregnant Women and Their Babies


One study has found evidence of dozens of man-made chemicals previously undetected in humans in the blood of pregnant women and their newborns.

Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) collected the blood of 30 pregnant women, along with samples from their umbilical cords, and analyzed them using high-resolution mass spectrometry (HRMS) to identify chemicals made by humans in the blood.


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The scientists detected 109 chemicals during the study, including 55 never reported in humans and 42 labeled “mystery chemicals” with no known sources or uses. The researchers said the chemicals likely come from consumer products or other industrial sources, and the fact that they are found in both the blood of pregnant women and their children suggests that they travel through the mother’s placenta.

“These chemicals have probably been in people for quite some time, but our technology is now helping us identify more of them,” Tracey J. Woodruff, professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at UCSF, saying.

People are exposed to man-made chemicals by eating and drinking food that has come in contact with containers, as well as through a variety of other products. The chemicals found are used to make plastics more flexible, pharmaceuticals, consumer products, pesticides, and flame retardants. They also include PFAS compounds, which have been used in a variety of industries around the world and the US since the 1940s.

“It is alarming that we continue to see certain chemicals travel from pregnant women to their children, which means that these substances can be with us for generations,” he said.

The study was published in Environmental Science and Technology.


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