Toxic PFAS Chemicals Discovered in Umbilical Cord Blood: Analysis

There are disturbing findings from a new analysis of existing studies that reveal the pervasiveness of toxic ‘forever chemicals’: the data demonstrated that humans are now exposed to PFAS chemicals even before they are born. The analysis revealed that toxic PFAS chemicals were detected in every umbilical cord blood sample across 40 studies conducted over the last five years.  The studies covered by the analysis collectively examined nearly 30,000 samples, and many linked fetal PFAS exposure to health complications in unborn babies, young children and later in life.  The studies linked fetal exposure to higher total cholesterol and triglycerides in babies, and changes in their bodies’ bile acids, which can lead to a higher risk of cardiovascular problems later in life.  Some studies also associated cord blood exposure with disruptions to thyroid glands and microbial cells in the colon.

What are PFAS chemicals?

PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), are a class of approximately 12,000 chemicals commonly used to make products resist water, stains and heat. They are called “forever chemicals” because they do not naturally break down, and instead, accumulate in human and animal bodies and the greater environment.

How are people exposed to toxic PFAS chemicals?

PFAS toxic chemicals are now ubiquitous in the U.S., present in our food, products, water and air.  PFAS chemicals are contaminating drinking water for over 200 million people in the U.S. The toxic chemicals have also been found at alarming levels in meat, fish, dairy, crops and processed foods. They can also be found in numerous consumer products including nonstick cookware and cooking utensils, food packaging, waterproof clothing, stain-guards like Scotchgard found on upholstery, carpeting, clothing and other textiles, cosmetics, and even some dental floss.

Despite the overwhelming scientific evidence* that all PFAS chemicals that have been studied are persistent in the environment and toxic, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have resisted banning non-essential uses of the chemicals.

Why should we care?

PFAS chemicals (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are toxic to humans, animals and the environment. They are comprised of approximately 12,000 compounds. PFAS chemicals present in products can be absorbed through the skin, swallowed or inhaled as they break off from products and move through the air.  As a result, the U.S. federal government estimates from previous testing that PFAS chemicals are present in 98% of Americans’ blood.. They are ubiquitous in the U.S., appearing in thousands of consumer and industrial products and are typically used to make products resist water, stains and heat, including household products (like carpeting, curtains, furniture upholstery, waterproof and stain-resistant flooring, etc.), cooking supplies (including cooking utensils and bake ware), clothing, personal care products (like cosmetics, including waterproof mascara) and even food (PFAS appears in processed food packaging for humans and pets) and public drinking water (tap water) that affects an estimated 2 million Americans. PFAS chemicals are usually found in products labeled “stain-proof” and “waterproof”.  PFAS chemicals also appear in fire-fighting foam and other industrial products used at airports and military bases across the country, where the chemicals have leached into the groundwater. PFAS chemicals are known as “forever chemicals” because they do not readily break down in the environment or human body.  PFAS chemicals have been linked in scientific and medical studies to a variety of serious health conditions including cancer (including testicular cancers), kidney disease, heart disease, thyroid problems, reproductive problems, endocrine problems (PFAS has been found to disrupt hormonal functions with some research suggesting that the PFAS chemicals are linked to accelerated ovarian aging, period irregularities and ovarian disorders like polycystic ovarian syndrome) and liver problems. Some newer PFAS have been found to accumulate in organs, so in some cases, science simply cannot detect the toxic chemicals when testing for it in blood.

How can you avoid PFAS exposure?

PFAS chemicals are ubiquitous in our products, air, food and even water so it is impossible to completely avoid exposure. However, consumers–especially pregnant women–can minimize exposure to toxic PFAS chemicals by avoiding waterproof and stain proof household and personal care products (including cosmetics) and processed and pre-packaged foods and drinks, and using carbon filters in water purifiers if their public water system contains PFAS chemicals. And here are some PFAS-Free frying pans/skillets.

Additionally, we offer private consulting and coaching programs for learning how to detect chemicals of concern in food, products and environment and choosing cleaner alternatives for pregnant women and other consumers here. Or get our book here.

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PFAS Testing Standards

* Here are some of our previous posts on scientific studies linking PFAS chemicals and other chemicals of concern to serious health conditions. To read an article, “copy” the title below, go to our Chemical Watch Blog, scroll down to the bottom of the page and “paste” the title you wish to see in the blog search bar, then hit “search”.

  • Toxic PFAS Chemicals Discovered in Kid’s Clothes and School Uniforms
  • EPA Designates Two PFAS Chemicals as Hazardous
  • Simple Method for Destroying Toxic PFAS Forever Chemicals Discovered
  • FDA to Gather Data on PFAS in Food Containers
  • Medical Monitoring Recommended for People Exposed to Toxic PFAS Chemicals
  • PFAS Chemicals Linked to Liver Cancer in Humans: Study
  • Toxic PFAS Found in Food Packaging
  • EPA Health Warning: PFAS Chemicals in Drinking Water
  • Liver Disease Linked with PFAS Forever Chemicals: Study
  • RECALL: Clams Contain Toxic PFAS Chemicals
  • Women, Toxic PFAS Forever Chemicals and Hypertension
  • Ban PFAS in Food Containers Bill vs PFAS Manufacturers and Big Chemical
  • PFAS Forever Chemicals Promote Prostate Cancer, say scientists
  • Scientists Monitoring Toxic PFAS Chemicals in Food Packaging
  • EPA Finally Addressing Toxic PFAS Forever Chemicals
  • EPA proposing setting PFAS limits in wastewater
  • PFAS Chemicals Linked with Increased Diabetes Risk in Latina Teens
  • U.S. Military Leaving Behind PFAS, Other Highly Toxic Chemicals in Afghanistan
  • Toxic PFAS Forever Chemicals are Leaching into Your Home Air at Worrying Levels, say scientists
  • PFAS ‘Forever Chemicals’ found in Tuna, Fish Sticks, Protein Powder and Baby Food, says FDA
  • FDA says Nearly All Raw Food in U.S. Free of PFAS Chemicals
  • PFAS Forever Chemical Discovered in Bottled Water: Study
  • States with New PFAS Laws
  • Radio Program-Podcast: PFAS
  • PFAS and Other Dangerous Chemicals Discovered in Fetal Organs
  • Makeup Contains Toxic PFAS Chemicals, say scientists
  • Pet Owners Beware: Popular Flea Control Products Contain Toxic PFAS Chemicals
  • Alarming levels of PFAS ‘forever chemicals’ in mothers’ breast milk: Study
  • Big Chemical Hid Data showing Dangers of PFAS Chemicals in Food Packaging
  • Cardiometabolic Risk for Teens Exposed Early to PFAS: A NIEHS-Nominated Study
  • PFAS Forever Chemical on Eco-Friendly Straws: Study
  • Restrict PFAS and Other Chemicals of Concern, says Vermont Senate
  • Alarming levels of PFAS forever chemicals, arsenic and lead in US water
  • U.S. military does ‘clandestine burning’ of toxic PFAS forever chemicals in low-income neighborhoods
  • A Problem of Epic Proportions: PFAS Chemicals in Pesticides
  • FDA Finally Warns Consumers about Toxic PFAS Chemicals in Personal Care Products, Cosmetics
  • Cape Cod Vacations Include PFAS Forever Chemical Contamination
  • For Researchers, Educators, Attorneys and Policymakers: PFAS Research Special Issue
  • PFAS Manufacturer Blocks Testing for the Toxic ‘Forever’ Chemical
  • Fast Food Giant to Phase Out Toxic PFAS Food Packaging Chemicals in 4 Years
  • Covid Vaccine Adversely Affected by PFAS Forever Chemicals? CDC Investigates
  • PFAS Chemicals Banned from Fast Food Packaging in New York
  • Household Chemicals PFAS and Phthalates Alter Gut Microbiome: Study
  • Our Most Toxic Chemical: Who is Doing What about PFAS?
  • Tooth Decay Linked to Toxic Chemical PFAS: New Study
  • Toxic PFAS Chemicals may be Slipping Right Through Your Home Water Filtration System
  • Toxic Forever Chemical PFAS Leaching into Food, FDA Confirms
  • Spotlight on Microplastics, Chemical Additives and Weight Gain
  • Toxic Chemicals in Your Clothes
  • Ultra-Processed Foods Linked with Cognitive Decline: Study
  • Harmful Chemical Toxins Found in Breast Milk: Study
  • Firefighters and Toxic Chemicals Study
  • Obesity Link with Chemicals in Food, Products under Scrutiny from scientists
  • New unlikely-to-pass bill would require FDA to study, reassess food chemicals
  • Salon Workers Have Growing Concerns Over Chemical Exposure
  • Avoid These Chemicals in Cosmetics and Personal Care Products
  • Toxic chemicals and Retailers: ‘Hall of Shame’
  • Disturbing Findings: Mystery Industrial Chemicals Discovered in Humans
  • Group calls for Ban on Phthalates
  • Amazon Does Partial Ban of Toxic Food Packaging Chemicals
  • Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals: Health Threat Grows
  • Celiac Disease Linked to Common Toxic Chemicals
  • Food Packaging Chemical Linked with Miscarriage: New Study
  • Eating Out Linked with Higher Levels of Toxic Chemicals in Your Blood
  • Toxic Forever Chemicals Lurking in Eco-Friendly Food Packaging?
  • Stop Exposing the Public to Unnecessary Toxic Chemicals: Scientists
  • Big Chemical Sued (again) Over Toxic Food Packaging Chemicals
  • Kids Carry Toxic Chemicals in Their Bodies from Vinyl Flooring, Furniture
  • Toxic Forever-Chemical in Your Drinking Water: Status Update
  • Toxic Industrial Chemicals Pass to Fetus Throughout Pregnancy: Scientists
  • Toxic Chemical Discovered in Dental Floss
  • Life-Altering Toxic Chemicals: A Brief History
  • Safer Chemical on Non-Stick Cookware Actually Quite Dangerous, says EPA
  • Another Common Household Chemical Linked to Harming Cats
  • Increased weight gain linked with common chemicals
  • Chemicals of Concern in One-Third of Fast Food Packaging: New Study
  • Researchers Discover High Levels of Toxic Industrial Chemical in U.S. Drinking Water

Analysis reference: Uloma Uche, Pregnant with PFAS: The threat of ‘forever chemicals’ in cord blood, Environmental Working Group (EWG), 2022. Report | Summary