Babies are being burdened with a toxic chemical load before they are born. When it comes to toxic chemicals and our environment, it is more evident than ever that there’s no time to waste.
In the month leading up to a baby's birth, the umbilical cord pulses with the equivalent of at least 300 quarts of blood each day, pumped back and forth from the nutrient- and oxygen-rich placenta to the rapidly growing child cradled in a sac of amniotic fluid. This cord is a lifeline between mother and baby, bearing nutrients that sustain life and propel growth.
Not long ago scientists thought that the placenta shielded cord blood — and the developing baby — from most chemicals and pollutants in the environment. But now we know that at this critical time when organs, vessels, membranes and systems are knit together from single cells to finished form in a span of weeks, the umbilical cord carries not only the building blocks of life, but also a steady stream of industrial chemicals, pollutants and pesticides that cross the placenta as readily as residues from cigarettes and alcohol. This is the human "body burden" — the pollution in people that permeates everyone in the world, including babies in the womb.
In a study spearheaded by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) in collaboration with Commonweal, researchers at two major laboratories found an average of 200 industrial chemicals and pollutants in umbilical cord blood from 10 babies born in August and September of 2004 in U.S. hospitals. Tests revealed a total of 287 chemicals in the group. The umbilical cord blood of these 10 children, collected by Red Cross after the cord was cut, harbored pesticides, consumer product ingredients, and wastes from burning coal, gasoline, and garbage.
This study represents the first reported cord blood tests for 261 of the targeted chemicals and the first reported detections in cord blood for 209 compounds. Among them are eight perfluorochemicals used as stain and oil repellants in fast food packaging, clothes and textiles — including the Teflon chemical PFOA, recently characterized as a likely human carcinogen by the EPA's Science Advisory Board — dozens of widely used brominated flame retardants and their toxic by-products; and numerous pesticides.
Of the 287 chemicals we detected in umbilical cord blood, we know that 180 cause cancer in humans or animals, 217 are toxic to the brain and nervous system, and 208 cause birth defects or abnormal development in animal tests. The dangers of pre- or post-natal exposure to this complex mixture of carcinogens, developmental toxins and neurotoxins have never been studied.
Trace amounts of flame retardants, banned for more than a decade, are still being passed through umbilical cord blood from mothers to their babies. The chemicals are linked to health concerns including hormone disruption and low birth weight.
The amount of chemicals measured in the cord blood of the babies seems to matter. The higher the concentration, the more the IQ among children seems to dip.
Research has also conclusively shown that climate change, caused in large part by carbon dioxide emitted by burning coal and other fossil fuels, is linked to more heat-related disease, malnutrition, infectious disease, trauma and mental health problems from extreme natural disasters like flooding. Those consequences can directly or indirectly affect early brain development, the cognitive and behavioral functioning of children and their ability to learn.
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Environmental Working Group analysis of tests of 10 umbilical cord blood samples conducted by AXYS Analytical Services (Sydney, BC) and Flett Research Ltd.
Indiana University. "Banned chemicals pass through umbilical cord from mother to baby, research finds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 June 2017
The New York Times: June 1 st/17 Frederica Perera, Director of the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health