Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals Discovered in Infants (Again)

The results of another new scientific study bring cautionary news for people who are, or plan to, become parents–especially if you plan to breastfeed. The study results revealed several endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) present in infants. How did this exposure to EDCs happen to infants?  The study found that breastfeeding is associated with a higher concentration of some of these chemicals (or their metabolites) in younger infants compared to older infants fed a mixed diet of breast milk and baby food. 

What endocrine-disrupting chemicals were found in infants?

-Bisphenols, more specifically BPA and the so-called “substitutes” (“BPA-Free”), BPS an BPF.  These chemicals are common in food and drink packaging (the inner linings of cans/canned food), some dental applications, the inside lids of Mason jars, and thermal receipts from retailers and ATMs. 

-Benzophenones (BPs) which can be found in personal care products like skin creams, moisturizers, sunscreen, and home care products like UV-protected curtains.

-Triclosan and triclocarban are antibacterial agents used in personal care and cleaning/disinfection products including some liquid hand soaps, toothbrushes and toothpastes.

-Chlorophenols make an appearance in pesticides and herbicides, with 2,5-dichlorophenol (2,5-DCP) also used as a disinfectant.

-Phenylphenols are fungicidal agents and are often used post-harvest to prevent fungal growth in fruit orchards.  In addition to making an appearance on commercial produce, these chemicals may also be used for industrial or household disinfection.

Some of these endocrine-disrupting chemicals remain present in the body almost all the time due to repeated or constant ingestion, skin contact, or inhalation. It is this continuous exposure thought to have the potential for endocrine disruption.

Study overview

The TRIO study included an analysis of the urine samples of over one hundred infants and their parents in Denmark. The current study took measurements of the endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the urine and serum of parents and infants during breastfeeding and mixed diet feeding periods.  Paired samples from about 60 infants from the FOOD study during the period when they were exclusively breastfed and after exposure to a mixed diet were also included.  The average age of infants in the exclusive breastfeeding cohort was two weeks old compared to 30 weeks in the mixed diet cohort. 

Results overview

Of the 22 endocrine-disrupting chemicals measured in the urine, 12 were present in over 50% of samples from parents and infants. The concentrations of excreted substances varied significantly between samples.. The chemical Benzophenones (BP-3) was present in almost all samples from infants and parents. In addition, BPA, BPS, Triclosan, and Chlorophenols (2,4-DCP) were identified in over 75% of parental samples and, except for 2,4-DCP, almost 95% of infant samples. Benzophenones (BP-1) was also commonly observed in all samples.  The concentrations of Triclosan, as well as Benzophenones (BP-1 and BP-3), were highly correlated with each other, suggesting that all these chemicals may have originated from the same sources. The levels of these compounds in infants and their mothers were also well correlated, as were Benzophenones (4-BHP) and BPA levels.  Simultaneous exposure to several chemical substances may have occurred within some families.

Breast feeding vs. breast feeding plus baby food

Exclusively breastfed infants excreted Benzophenones (4-BHP) and Triclosan at higher concentrations than when they were introduced to other foods. This could be due to inhalation of chemicals from personal care products or cleaning products, even those used by their parents. Of course, breast milk itself could be another source of these substances.

In the mixed diet group (breast milk and baby food), Chlorophenols (2,4-DCP, 2-PP, and 2,5-DCP) were more commonly detected. This is likely because many of these are pesticides used in growing grains, fruits, and vegetables, all of which form the base for solid foods.

Conclusions

Low levels of chemicals were found to be excreted in the urine of both infants and parents. Most of this exposure originated from household chemicals and parental or infant personal care products.

Overall, parental exposure reflected infant exposure, though the levels significantly varied between adults and infants within families. Higher mean levels (averages) of chemical exposure have been found in pregnant women in several studies conducted in France, the U.S., and Puerto Rico. This variation of results could be due to the intentional phasing out of these compounds over the last few years in Denmark.

Interestingly, Triclosan detection rates were high, even though this substance is only allowed in a very small group of personal care products in Denmark and at a very low concentration. (source)

What should parents do?

Read the labels of everything you purchase–not only food, but personal care products and household goods as well–and avoid the endocrine-disrupting chemicals listed in this article.

 


Journal reference: Frederikson, H., Ljubcic, M. L., Upners, E. N., et al. (2022). Benzophenones, bisphenols and other polychlorinated/phenolic substances in Danish infants and their parents – including longitudinal assessments before and after introduction to mixed diet. Environment International Journal, Volume 169, November 2022, 107532. doi:10.1016/j.envint.2022.107532