In a study released Thursday in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, UCSF researchers revealed that almost all pregnant women carry multiple chemicals in their systems, including some which have been banned since the 1970’s, said Margie Kelly, a spokeswoman with the nonprofit Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families.
The current federal law governing chemicals in the U.S. is the outdated 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act, she said.
Due to serious limitations of the current law, very little is known about the vast majority of the chemicals produced and used in the U.S., Kelly said.
“The current legislation allows mercury, asbestos, formaldehyde and tens of thousands of other chemicals to be used in commerce,” spokeswoman Shayna Samuels said.
The Environmental Protection Agency has required testing on only 200 existing chemicals over the past three decades and restricted only five, Kelly said.
Researchers at UCSF studied 268 pregnant women, chosen by the Center for Disease Control as a representative sample of the average experience and health in the U.S., said Tracey Woodruff, associate professor and director of the program on reproductive health and the environment at UCSF.
Among the chemicals found in the women were compounds that are used as flame retardants that are now banned in many states, and a pesticide that was banned in the U.S. in 1972, Kelly said.
Bisphenol A, a chemical that makes plastic hard and clear and is found inside of metal food and beverage cans, was identified in 96 percent of the women surveyed, Kelly said.
According to researchers, prenatal exposure to Bisphenol A has been linked to adverse health outcomes and can affect brain development and increasing susceptibility to cancer later in life, Kelly said.
People can come into contact with these toxic chemicals in different ways, including through food, dust, drinking water and consumer products, Woodruff said.
“There are personal choices pregnant women can make to reduce their exposures to environmental chemicals, but the significant, long-lasting change only will result from a systemic approach that includes proactive government policies,” Woodruff said.
“These findings should be a call to action for Congress and the Administration,” said Andy Igrejas, director of the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition.
Since 2002, 18 states have taken action on chemicals, passing 71 different laws with bi-partisan support, Kelly said.
In the last Congress, however, legislation was introduced but never brought up for a vote.
“At the voter level there is almost no daylight between Republican and Democrats on this issue. Can Congress follow their lead? We’re optimistic that they can,” Igrejas said.
Erika Heidecker, Bay City News