More than 50 new environmental chemicals detected in people

Read the full story at Live Science.

Researchers have detected more than 50 new environmental chemicals lurking in people’s bodies, the vast majority of which are little known or unknown compounds.

These chemicals — which have never been observed in people before — were discovered in a study of pregnant women and their newborns.

The findings are concerning given that very little is known about these chemicals and their potential health effects, researchers from the new study say. What’s more, pregnant women and their newborns are a particularly vulnerable population.

“We are very concerned about these exposures that occur during pregnancy because it’s such a vulnerable period of development,” said study senior author Tracey Woodruff, director of the Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment (PRHE) and the Environmental Research and Translation for Health (EaRTH) Center, both at University of California San Francisco. “It can influence the mom’s health later. And it’s a vulnerable period of development for the fetus, so it can have childhood and lifelong consequences.”  

Of these newly detected chemicals, two were perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. These chemicals, used in consumer products such as nonstick cookware and pizza boxes, stay in the human body for a long time and can accumulate, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Ten of the newly detected substances were plasticizers, or chemicals used in the production of plastics. For example, one of the detected plasticizers, a group of chemicals called phthalates, are often found in fast-food packaging and have been associated with adverse health effects. Two of the newly detected chemicals are used in cosmetics; one in pesticides. 

But most — 37 — of these newly detected chemicals are ones that researchers have little to no information on, the authors wrote in the study, published Tuesday (March 16) in the journal Environmental Science & Technology

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