The scientific team used high-resolution mass spectrometry (HRMS) to identify man-made chemicals in people. While these chemicals can be tentatively identified using chemical libraries, they need to be confirmed by comparing them to the pure chemicals (known as “analytical standards”) produced by manufacturers. The problem is that manufacturers do not always make their chemicals available to scientists or the public at large–and their buddies at the U.S. governmental agencies supposed to regulate the chemicals* do not require them to do so.
The 109 chemicals researchers found in the blood samples from pregnant women and their newborns are found in many different types of products. For example, 40 are used as plasticizers (think “Phthalates”, “BPA”, “BPS” and so on), 28 in cosmetics, 25 in consumer products, 29 as pharmaceuticals, 23 as pesticides, 3 as flame retardants, and 7 are PFAS compounds, which are used in carpeting, upholstery, waterproof and stain-proof clothing, carpets and other products, nonstick cookware and utensils, and other applications. The researchers say it’s possible there are also other uses for all of these chemicals.
The researchers report that 55 of the 109 chemicals they tentatively identified appear not to have been previously reported in people:
- 1 is used as a pesticide (bis(2,2,6,6-tetramethylpiperidini-4-y) decanedioate)
- 2 are PFASs (methyl perfluoroundecanoate, most likely used in the manufacturing of non-stick cookware and waterproof fabrics; 2-perfluorodecyl ethanoic acid)
- 10 are used as plasticizers (e.g. Sumilizer GA 80—used in food packaging, paper plates, small appliances)
- 2 are used in cosmetics
- 4 are high production volume (HPV) chemicals
- 37 have little to no information about their sources or uses (e.g., 1-(1-Acetyl-2,2,6,6-tetramethylpiperidin-4-yl)-3-dodecylpyrrolidine-2,5-dione, used in manufacturing fragrances and paints—this chemical is so little known that there is currently no acronym—and (2R0-7-hydroxy-8-(2-hydroxyethyl)-5-methoxy-2-,3-dihydrochromen-4-one (Acronym: LL-D-253alpha), for which there is limited to no information about its uses or sources
“It’s very concerning that we are unable to identify the uses or sources of so many of these chemicals. EPA must do a better job of requiring the chemical industry to standardize its reporting of chemical compounds and uses. And they need to use their authority to ensure that we have adequate information to evaluate potential health harms and remove chemicals from the market that pose a risk.” -Tracey J. Woodruff, Ph.D., scientific researcher, professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at University of California, San Francisco and previous EPA scientist
*U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
**Scientists stated they tentatively identified 55 compounds not previously reported in the literature, the majority which have limited to no information about their sources or uses.
Journal Reference: Wang, A. et al. Suspect Screening, Prioritization, and Confirmation of Environmental Chemicals in Maternal-Newborn Pairs from San Francisco, Environmental Science and Technololgy, 2021, Publication Date:March 16, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.est.0c05984 Summary / American Chemical Society (ACS)