EWG Lab Tests Find BPA, Perchlorate in Newborn Umbilical Cords

Laboratory tests commissioned by Environmental Working Group (EWG) and Rachel's Network have detected bisphenol A (BPA) for the first time in the umbilical cord blood of U.S. Newborns.

The tests identified the plastics chemical in 9 of 10 cord blood samples from babies of African American, Asian and Hispanic descent. The findings provide evidence that U.S. infants are contaminated with BPA beginning in the womb.

Additional tests conducted by five laboratories in the United States, Canada and Europe found up to 232 toxic chemicals in the 10 cord blood samples. Besides BPA, substances detected for the first time in U.S. newborns included a toxic flame retardant chemical called tetrabromobisphenol A (TBBPA) that permeates computer circuit boards, synthetic fragrances (Galaxolide and Tonalide) used in common cosmetics and detergents, and perfluorobutanoic acid (PFBA, or C4), a member of the notorious Teflon chemical family used to make non-stick and grease-, stain- and water-resistant coatings for cookware, textiles, food packaging and other consumer products.

The EWG study is the first to find perchlorate contamination in cord blood samples from multiple states. (A study by researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently found perchlorate in cord blood samples from infants born in New Jersey.) Nine of the 10 samples in the EWG study were contaminated with perchlorate, a solid rocket fuel component and potent thyroid toxin that can disrupt production of hormones essential for normal brain development.

The minority cord blood study is the 11th biomonitoring investigation commissioned by EWG. These projects, employing leading biomonitoring labs around the world, have together identified up to 486 chemicals, pollutants and pesticides in 186 people, from newborns to grandparents. Each study contributes new pieces to a mosaic of the "human toxome," as EWG analysts call pollution in people.

"Each time we look for the latest chemical of concern in infant cord blood, we find it," said Anila Jacob, M.D., EWG senior scientist and co-author of the report. "This time we discovered BPA, among other dangerous substances, in almost every infant's cord blood we tested."

"When I learned of EWG's groundbreaking biomonitoring research four years ago, I knew Rachel's Network members would want to be involved. We are proud to have funded this research, and it is imperative that Congress now take action to strengthen chemical regulation," said Winsome McIntosh, founder and president of Rachel's Network. "This issue affects all of us; EWG's testing proves that a toxic chemical burden exists in women and children regardless of geographic location or socioeconomic status."

The 10 children in this study were born between December 2007 and June 2008 in Michigan, Florida, Massachusetts, California and Wisconsin. They are otherwise anonymous. EWG has no way of knowing anything about the homes and neighborhoods into which they were born. The study tested for chemicals that can be found in virtually every American household. Additional studies are needed to define the risk from localized pollution sources.

The Environmental Working Group says that the failed Toxic Substances Control Act is primarily to blame for the widespread contamination in umbilical cord blood. The 1976 act does not require manufacturers to prove through scientific tests that chemicals are safe for humans and the environment before going on the market. There are currently more than 80,000 chemicals in consumer goods, with little or no safety information about their impact on human health.

Dr. Woodson Merrell, chair, Department of Integrative Medicine, Beth Israel Medical Center, N.Y., said, "This EWG research initiative crucially augments similar studies from the Centers for Disease Control and helps further establish links between pollution and many chronic and fatal diseases reaching near-epidemic proportions in the U.S., including asthma, breast and prostate cancer, diabetes, obesity and ADHD. It's critical that we begin to understand the health impacts of exposure to pollutants, especially for women of childbearing age as regards the chemicals highlighted in this report, which have hormone disrupting and carcinogenic properties. I urge journalists, scientists, physicians and members of industry to take a close look at this latest groundbreaking research."

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