Chemical exposure in the womb from household items may contribute to obesity

August 30, 2012

Pregnant women who are highly exposed to common environmental chemicals - polyfluoroalkyl compounds (PFCs) - have babies that are smaller at birth and larger at 20 months of age, according to a study from Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health published online in the August 30 edition of Environmental Health Perspectives.

PFCs are used in the production of fluoropolymers and are found widely in of , clothes, furniture and non-stick cookware. They are persistent compounds found abundantly in the environment and is common. PFCs have been detected in human sera, and cord blood.

The study, funded by the , included 447 British girls and their mothers in the United Kingdom participating in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, a large-scale health research project that has provided a vast amount of genetic and environmental information since it began in the early 1990s.

The researchers found that even though girls with higher exposure were smaller than average (43rd percentile) at birth, they were heavier than average (58th percentile) by 20 months of age. The authors say this path may lead to obesity at older ages.

"Previous animal and human research suggests prenatal exposures to PFCs may have harmful effects on fetal and postnatal growth," says lead researcher Michele Marcus, MPH, PhD, a professor of epidemiology in Emory's Rollins School of Public Health and the assistant program director at Kaiser Permanente's Center for Health Research.

"Our findings are consistent with these studies and emerging evidence that chemicals in our environment are contributing to obesity and diabetes and demonstrate that this trajectory is set very early in life for those exposed."

According to Marcus, a recent study in Denmark found that women exposed to PFCs in the womb were more likely to be overweight at age 20. And experimental studies with mice have shown that exposure in the womb led to higher levels of insulin and heavier body weight in adulthood.

Marcus and her colleagues focused on the three most studied PFCs: perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFS), perfluorooctanoate (PFOA) and perfluorohexane sulfonate (PFHxS). The researchers measured maternal serum concentrations of PFOS, PFOA and PFHxS during pregnancy and obtained data on the weight and length of the girls at birth, 2, 9 and 20 months. They explored associations between prenatal PFC concentrations and weight at birth as well as changes in weight-for-age scores between birth and 20 months.

Explore further: Environmental pollutant linked with overweight

Related Stories

Environmental pollutant linked with overweight

February 21, 2012
The levels of the environmental pollutant perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) that mothers had in their blood during pregnancy increased the risk of obesity in their daughters at 20 years of age. The findings come from a recent ...

PFCs, chemicals in environment, linked to lowered immune response to childhood vaccinations

January 24, 2012
A new study finds that perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), widely used in manufactured products such as non-stick cookware, waterproof clothing, and fast-food packaging, were associated with lowered immune response to vaccinations ...

Recommended for you

Link between obesity and cancer is not widely recognized

November 17, 2017
A new study published in the Journal of Public Health has shown that the majority of people in the United Kingdom do not understand the connection between weight issues and cancer. Obesity is associated with thirteen types ...

Reversing negative effects of maternal obesity

November 8, 2017
A drug that increases energy metabolism may lead to a new approach to prevent obesity in children born to overweight mothers, UNSW Sydney researchers have found.

Serving water with school lunches could prevent child, adult obesity: study

November 7, 2017
Encouraging children to drink plain water with their school lunches could prevent more than half a million youths in the U.S. from becoming overweight or obese, and trim the medical costs and indirect societal costs associated ...

Why do some obese people have 'healthier' fat tissue than others?

November 1, 2017
One little understood paradox in the study of obesity is that overweight people who break down fat at a high rate are less healthy than peers who store their fat more effectively.

Engineered protein treatment found to reduce obesity in mice, rats and primates

October 19, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A team of researchers with pharmaceutical company Amgen Inc. report that an engineered version of a protein naturally found in the body caused test mice, rats and cynomolgus monkeys to lose weight. In their ...

Nearly 4 in 10 U.S. adults now obese (Update)

October 13, 2017
(HealthDay)—Almost forty percent adults in the United States are now obese, continuing an ever-expanding epidemic of obesity that's expected to lead to sicker Americans and higher health care costs.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.