Results of a new observational study present a warning about chemicals of concern in our personal and home care products and neurological damage. The study found that exposure during the first trimester of pregnancy to mixtures of suspected endocrine-disrupting chemicals found in consumer products is related to lower IQ in children by age 7.
- Exposure to mixtures of chemicals in ordinary consumer products may affect child brain development and some chemicals believed to be safer, like BPF, may not be any safer for children.
- Exposure to chemicals of concern during critical periods of fetal development may be permanent, with subtle endocrine changes potentially influencing health outcomes into adulthood.
- Preventing exposures to chemicals of concern by pregnant women or women trying to become pregnant is critical to preventing neurological harm to children.
Scientists measured 26 chemicals in the blood and urine of 718 mothers during the first trimester of their pregnancies in the study of Swedish mothers and children, known as SELMA. These chemicals included bisphenol A (BPA), which is found in plastic food and drink containers, as well as pesticides, phthalates, and other chemicals found in consumer products. Some of the 26 are known to disrupt endocrine (hormone) activity in humans; others have been shown to do so only in animals, or are suspected of endocrine disruption because they share chemical features with known disruptors.
Researchers later followed up with the children at age 7 and found that those whose mothers had higher levels of the chemicals in their system during pregnancy had lower IQ scores–particularly boys, whose scores were lower by two points. Within the mixture, bisphenol F (BPF), a BPA-replacement compound, made the highest contribution to lowering children’s IQ, suggesting that BPF is not any safer for children than BPA.
The study found that other chemicals of concern in the mixture were the pesticide chloropyrifos; polyfluoroalkyl substances, which are found in cleaning products; triclosan, a chemical found in antibacterial soaps; and phthalates, which are found in soft polyvinyl chloride plastics and cosmetics. Many of the chemicals only stay in the body a short time, meaning that even a short-term exposure may be detrimental, so researchers believe this indicates that preventing exposures to pregnant women or women trying to become pregnant is critical to preventing neurological harm to children.
Journal reference: Tanner, E., et al. Early prenatal exposure to suspected endocrine disruptor mixtures is associated with lower IQ at age seven, Environment International Journal, in press, Available online 24 October 2019, Article 105185, Download study pdf.