The Grapevine

Food Packaging, Furniture, Household Products Found To Have Chemicals That Delay Fetal Growth

A set of chemicals used in common household products, such as food packaging, furniture textiles and make-up, have been found linked to delayed development of babies. 

A new study shows that exposure of women to chemicals known as perfluorinated substances could reduce growth in fetuses during pregnancy. Researchers from Aarhus University described the findings as significant and alarming due to the chemicals’ health impact, EurekAlert reported on Monday.

“The perfluorinated substances can mimic the hormone oestrogen and can therefore disrupt the body's natural hormonal processes including the development of the fetus,” said Eva Cecilie Bonefeld-Joergensen of the Department of Public Health in Denmark. “We can see that the complex mix of perfluorinated substances in the mother impairs fetal growth and length,” she added.

Her team found that perfluorinated substances mainly contribute to low birth weight, which could then increase risk for babies to develop diseases later in life. The substances have been linked to other health issues, including breast cancer, fertility problems, ADHD, asthma, weakened immune system and reduced effect of vaccines.

The latest findings, published in the scientific journal Environmental Health Perspectives, come from the analysis of blood samples from over 702 pregnant Danish women.

Researchers warned that the chemicals tend to stay long in the body as they are fat and water repellent. It is also easy to ingest them or be exposed to them as perfluorinated substances are present in food, the air, dust, water and everyday products, such as waterproof clothing, food packaging, furniture and cosmetics. 

Bonefeld-Joergensen said her team aims to conduct another study to further understand the chemicals’ impact on children. “We still lack specific knowledge about how the children who are exposed to the substances subsequently develop,” she said. 

To date, a majority of the nearly 1,000 different perfluorinated substances are still not regulated by law. Commercial products also lack proper labeling to determine the levels of such chemicals used, according to the researchers. 

“As a consumer you have to ask in the store. Products with these toxic substances are popular, but we pay the price with our children's and our own health if we don't avoid these products,” Bonefeld-Joergensen said.