This one’s already gotten a lot of air time, but we’re going to weigh in nonetheless. A study conducted by the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), and published in Environmental Health Perspectives, found a multitude of chemicals in the urine and blood samples of pregnant women.
While this in itself is not surprising, some of the findings are. From this San Francisco Chronicle article:
Of the 163 chemicals studied, 43 of them were found in virtually all 268 pregnant women in the study. They included polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs, a prohibited chemical linked to cancer and other health problems; organochlorine pesticides; polybrominated diphenyl ethers, banned compounds used as flame retardants; and phthalates, which are shown to cause hormone disruption.
Some of these chemicals were banned before many of the women were even born.
Nobody knows for sure if these chemicals have ill effects on fetuses and, as Andrew Revkin at the New York Times points out, there are inherent problems when writing about this kind of research. As a rule we try not to incite panic, but we also think that it’s important to spread this type of information even when studies aren’t conclusive (which they never are), or only explore one part of an issue (which they often do). There are also worse things to panic about, especially when our exposure to certain questionable chemicals—like the ones in your body lotion—can be significantly reduced by making better choices as consumers. But I digress…
What’s most disturbing about this study is how some of these chemicals have been passed on mother-to-child generations after they’ve been discontinued from use. That’s creepy, even if it isn’t “proven” to be dangerous.
Are you freaked out by this research? And do you think journalists need to be more careful when they’re reporting on science?