They detect remnants of personal hygiene products in the umbilical cord

The Institute for Environmental Diagnosis and Water Studies (IDAEA-CSIC) detected, for the first time, 11 chemical compounds in the umbilical cord blood of 69 newborns in Barcelona. These include some ultraviolet (UV) filters used in sun creams and parabens Widely used in cosmetics, both possible causes of adverse effects in the early stages of fetal and infant development. These results demonstrate the transfer of said compounds between mother and fetus across the placental barrier.

The methodology included very precise chemical analysis to specifically detect UV filters and parabens, as well as investigate other compounds more generally. It is not the first time that contaminants have been detected in the umbilical cord, but this group of 11 compounds, which includes widely used sunscreens, has.

These chemical compounds are transmitted across the placental barrier and pose a risk to health and the environment.

These chemicals are a growing concern as they have recently been detected in a wide variety of samples and pose a risk to human health and the environment.

“In 17% of the umbilical cord samples we analyzed, we detected benzophenone-3 (oxybenzone), the most used UV filter in the world for sun protection and currently banned in some countries”, explains Sílvia Díaz-Cruz, IDAEA- Researcher at CSIC and main author of the study. This endocrine disruptor affects reproduction and causes an increased risk of endometriosis, infertility and problems during pregnancy and childbirth.

Another of the UV filters is avobenzone (present in 15% of the samples), detected for the first time in the umbilical cord in this work. This substance is common in sun creams and other body lotions because of its broad protection against solar radiation. The compound can interfere with the natural action of estrogens and promote the development of childhood obesity.

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Oxybenzone is the most widely used ultraviolet filter in the world and is banned in some countries.

In addition, high concentrations of benzophenone-2 (53.3 ng/mL), a known endocrine disruptor, were also found. It should be noted that in previous studies these researchers have already found this type of compound in human placenta and breast milk.

Regarding the concentrations detected in the umbilical cord samples, Díaz-Cruz emphasizes: “the problem with these compounds is that, because they are worrying contaminants and of recent detection, the regulation has not established a limit value for human exposure”. However, at product level, cosmetic legislation requires that benzophenone-3 and avobenzone represent up to a maximum of 6% and 4% of the total weight of the product, respectively.

The research team points out that the main route of exposure to these compounds is through contact with the skin, although they can also enter the human body through contaminated food or water, or through inhaling the air. Among the other chemicals found for the first time in the umbilical cord is the antioxidant MBM, an additive in plastic packaging.

“Considering the limited number of samples in our work, these results should be interpreted as a preliminary reference to study the transfer of chemical compounds through the umbilical cord in a larger population”, concludes Díaz-Cruz.

The authors emphasize that it is necessary to monitor the negative effects of these compounds in the long term and to be able to carry out a more adequate regulation in relation to human health and the environment.

Reference:

Diaz-Cruz, S. et al. “Target analysis and suspect screening of UV filters, parabens, and other chemicals used in personal care products in cord blood: prenatal exposure by mother-fetus transfer” International Environment (2023)

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