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Continued from Cord Blood Study
Had we tested for a broader array of chemicals, we would almost certainly have detected far more than 287.
But testing umbilical cord blood for industrial chemicals is technically challenging. Chemical manufacturers are not required to divulge to the public or government health officials methods to detect their chemicals in humans. Few labs are equipped with the machines and expertise to run the tests or the funding to develop the methods. Laboratories have yet to develop methods to test human tissues for the vast majority of chemicals on the market, and the few tests that labs are able to conduct are expensive. Laboratory costs for the cord blood analyses reported here were $10,000 per sample.
A developing baby depends on adults for protection, nutrition, and, ultimately, survival. As a society we have a responsibility to ensure that babies do not enter this world pre-polluted, with 200 industrial chemicals in their blood. Decades-old bans on a handful of chemicals like PCBs, lead gas additives, DDT and other pesticides have led to significant declines in people's blood levels of these pollutants. But good news like this is hard to find for other chemicals.
The Toxic Substances Control Act, the 1976 federal law meant to ensure the safety of commercial chemicals, essentially deemed 63,000 existing chemicals "safe as used" the day the law was passed, through mandated, en masse approval for use with no safety scrutiny. It forces the government to approve new chemicals within 90 days of a company's application at an average pace of seven per day. It has not been improved for nearly 30 years — longer than any other major environmental or public health statute — and does nothing to reduce or ensure the safety of exposure to pollution in the womb.
Because the Toxic Substances Control Act fails to mandate safety studies, the government has initiated a number of voluntary programs to gather more information about chemicals, most notably the high production volume (HPV) chemical screening program. But these efforts have been largely ineffective at reducing human exposures to chemicals. They are no substitute for a clear statutory requirement to protect children from the toxic effects of chemical exposure.
In light of the findings in this study and a substantial body of supporting science on the toxicity of early life exposures to industrial chemicals, we strongly urge that federal laws and policies be reformed to ensure that children are protected from chemicals, and that to the maximum extent possible, exposures to industrial chemicals before birth be eliminated. The sooner society takes action, the sooner we can reduce or end pollution in the womb.
Tests show 287 industrial chemicals in 10 newborn babies
Pollutants include consumer product ingredients, banned industrial chemicals and pesticides, and waste byproducts
Sources and uses of chemicals in newborn blood Chemical family name Total number of chemicals found in 10 newborns (range in individual babies)
Common consumer product chemicals (and their breakdown products) 47 chemicals
(23 - 38)
Pesticides, actively used in U.S. Organochlorine pesticides (OCs) 7 chemicals
(2 - 6)
Stain and grease resistant coatings for food wrap, carpet, furniture (Teflon, Scotchgard, Stainmaster...) Perfluorochemicals (PFCs) 8 chemicals
(4 - 8)
Fire retardants in TVs, computers, furniture Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) 32 chemicals
(13 - 29)
Chemicals banned or severely restricted in the U.S. (and their breakdown products) 212 chemicals
(111 - 185)
Pesticides, phased out of use in U.S. Organochlorine pesticides (OCs) 14 chemicals
(7 - 14)
Stain and grease resistant coatings for food wrap, carpet, furniture (pre-2000 Scotchgard) Perfluorochemicals (PFCs) 1 chemicals
(1 - 1)
Electrical insulators Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) 147 chemicals
(65 - 134)
Broad use industrial chemicals - flame retardants, pesticides, electrical insultators Polychlorinated naphthalenes (PCNs) 50 chemicals
(22 - 40)
Waste byproducts 28 chemicals
(6 - 21)
Garbage incineration and plastic production wastes Polychlorinated and Polybrominated dibenzo dioxins and furans (PCDD/F and PBDD/F) 18 chemicals
(5 - 13)
Car emissions and other fossil fuel combustion Polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) 10 chemicals
(1 - 10)
Power plants (coal burning) Methylmercury 1 chemicals
(1 - 1)
All chemicals found 287 chemicals
(154 - 231)
Source: Environmental Working Group analysis of tests of 10 umbilical cord blood samples conducted by AXYS Analytical Services (Sydney, BC) and Flett Research Ltd. (Winnipeg, MB). http://www.ewg.org Thank you for your work EWG!