A study from the University of California San Francisco has found a total of 109 chemicals during a study of 30 pregnant women, including 55 that have never been reported in humans before and 42 ‘mystery chemicals’ with unknown environmental sources. The study, which appeared in Environmental Science and Technology, suggests these chemicals have been in the body for a while but high-resolution spectrometry has only made it possible now to detect them in detail.
The team observed 60 blood samples (30 from pregnant women and 30 from their umbilical cords), from which 662 chemical signatures were revealed when it hit positive ions and 778 negative ions. Scientists combined similar samples and after sorting them out, 109 unique findings were identified.
As per Popular Mechanics, samples were taken from pregnant women because pregnancy is a “critical period of development for future health risks.” Some chemicals appeared both in women and their newborns, suggesting chemicals travelled through the placenta into the womb where the fetus develops.
According to researchers, these 42 ‘mystery chemicals’ came from consumer products like cosmetics, plastics, and common pesticides. Using ‘fragmentation spectra matching’, scientists were able to match 73 of the 109 chemicals and 15 others using standard chemicals.
High-resolution spectrometry (HRMS) developed around 50 years ago has only been affordable in the last 10 years. Mass spectrometry involves blasting a beam of light through a sample and breaking it into parts according to particles in the samples. Scientists can pick them out individually as each element and compound has a signature appearance.
Using HRMS, they were determined as 40 were plasticizers, 28 were cosmetics, 25 in consumer products, 29 as pharmaceuticals, 23 as pesticides and three as flame retardants.
Tracey J. Woodruff, PhD, a professor of obstetrics, gynaecology and reproductive sciences at UCS told Daily Mail, these chemicals have been in the human body for some time but our technology is now helping to identify more of them. He statesthat we are unable to identify the uses or sources of so many of these chemicals. EPA must use their authority to evaluate potential health harms and remove such chemicals from the market.