Common contaminants linked to rapid weight gain in children | CNN



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A new study shows that children exposed to higher levels of pesticides, fungicides and synthetic chemicals while in the womb are more likely to have a higher body mass index in childhood than those who do not. Children are exposed to lower amounts of that chemical.

First author Parisa Montazeri, an epidemiologist and scientific coordinator at the Barcelona Global Institute, said this is important knowledge because rapid growth during childhood is linked to many Various health problems in childhood and later life, including obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Health in Spain, in an email.

Montazeri said all of the chemicals tested in the study were suspected obesogens, which may promote obesity by interfering with metabolism and hormones.

All children are exposed before birth, she added. Some measurements were below the limit of detection, meaning the sample had a concentration of the chemical measured that was too low to register, but this was only a minority of cases.

Previous studies have linked these chemicals to BMI and growth in children as well as higher BMI and obesity levels in adults.

This (study) reinforces the fact that synthetic chemicals make us fatter,” said Dr. Leonardo Trasande, director.of environmental pediatrics at NYU Langone Health, in an email. He was not involved in the study.

The study measured levels of 23 common contaminants in the blood and urine of 1,911 expectant mothers participating in the birth cohort of a long-term study conducted in Spain by the INfancia y Medio Project Ambiente. The research network aims to examine the lifelong effects of exposure in the womb to chemical pollutants in air, water and food.

The new study, published Wednesday in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, tracked children’s growth and development at 6 months and again at 1, 2, 4, 7 and 9 years old.

Some of the chemicals in the study are considered persistent because they break down slowly: They persist in the environment and our bodies for a long time, from years to decades, Montazeri said.

The fungicide hexachlorobenzene, or HCB, is one such chemical. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it was banned in the United States in 1984, but may be produced as a byproduct or impurity during the production of some chemicals and pesticides. deep.

The CDC notes that HCB is well absorbed after oral administration, is widely distributed throughout the body, and accumulates in fatty tissues and persists for many years.

The researchers also measured levels of the pesticide dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene, or DDE, that occur when DDT, a pesticide banned in the US in 1972, breaks down in the environment.

According to the CDC, microorganisms in soil break down DDT slowly (it can take 2 to 15 years to break down half of DDT).

Montazeri said both DDT and HCB contamination in humans occur primarily through bioaccumulation in the food chain through fish, fish products, meat (and) dairy products.

The study also measured levels of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, which were banned in the US in 1979 after they were shown to cause cancer in humans and a range of other health problems in animals. However, one flaw inside According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, regulations allow some PCBs to be manufactured under certain circumstances.

Levels of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, orPFAS, were also tested. Known as forever chemicals because they can take decades to break down, PFAS have been used since the 1950s to make products that are resistant to heat, oil, grease, stains and water. A February study found that PFAS alter thyroid function in children, while a 300-page report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine found sufficient scientific evidence of a link. There is a link between PFAS exposure and an increased risk of kidney cancer in adults as well as abnormally high cholesterol levels. .

The July 2022 report also found that PFAS exposure is strongly associated with reduced infant and fetal growth and reduced antibody responses to vaccines in both adults and children.

Other chemicals in the study, such as phthalates and phenol, were less persistent, remaining in the body for hours or days before being eliminated. However, a 2021 report found that phthalates harm neurological development in fetuses, infants, and young children. Studies have also linked phthalates to childhood obesity, asthma, cardiovascular problems, cancer and reproductive problems such as genital defects and undescended testicles in boys. Low sperm count and testosterone levels in adult men.

Phthalates and phenols are found in plastics and personal care products, Montazeri said. Exposure can come from contaminated food and drinks, and exposure through skin contact or even inhalation.

The researchers measured the chemicals individually and as mixtures, Montazeri said, then came up with a more realistic description of how people are exposed to common pollutants.

The study adds to a growing body of literature showing that looking at mixtures of chemicals is as important as exposure, added Trasande, who is also a professor of pediatrics and public health at NYU Grossman School of Medicine. is to gain weight by a thousand cuts and one exposure. can make someone more vulnerable to others.

The results show that persistent chemicals, such as HCB, DDE, PCBs and one of the PFAS are associated with an increased risk of low birth weight, which can slow development, followed by index BMI increases range from 19% to 32%.

“We found this relationship in both the single chemistry model and the mixture model,” says Montazeri. These children started smaller, then grew very quickly, then they continued on this accelerated trajectory so that at the end of our measurement (age 9), they had some of the highest BMIs .

The study could not determine whether children continued to absorb chemicals after birth through breast milk, food, air, water, soil, and household products that contain many contaminants.

A child’s exposure after pregnancy may influence the child’s BMI trajectory, Montazeri said, but this does not explain the association we found between exposure in the womb and BMI trajectory. of children. Our study highlights the need for further research to evaluate the health effects of exposure to chemicals in the prenatal environment throughout a child’s life.

Expectant mothers can take steps to limit their exposure to potentially toxic chemicals.

On an individual level for pregnant mothers, recommendations are to avoid storing and microwaving food in plastic containers (and) avoid cooking with nonstick pans, Montazeri said in an email.

Additional tips from experts include:

Do not eat fish with high levels of mercury and PCBs such as shark and swordfish.
Eat local, organic foods as often as possible to avoid pesticides and other chemicals. For packaged goods, use the Environmental Working Group’s Food Score database to find foods with fewer additives.
Check cosmetic labels, which often contain phthalates and other chemicals that can be harmful to people and animals. Use EWG’s cosmetics database to find options with fewer contaminants.
Choose ceramic or stainless steel cookware and avoid products with flame retardants.
Use a wet mop when cleaning floors to remove dust that may contain chemicals.
Test your water for PFAS and choose a filter certified from the National Sanitation Foundation.

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