Pregnant women try hard to protect their developing babies from potential dangers, like tobacco smoke and alcohol. But a shocking new study reveals that women's bodies are awash in pesticides, rocket fuel, and other chemicals.
The study didn't evaluate the threat these chemicals pose, but previous research has linked some to cancer, leaning disabilities, and other health problems.
Precisely what yucky stuff turned up in pregnant women's bodies? Keep clicking to see the complete list, from study author Dr. Tracey Woodruff, director of the program on reproductive health and the environment at the University California at San Francisco.
Every woman in the study tested positive for perchlorate, a chemical used in rocket fuel and found in drinking water in many communities. Perchlorate has been linked to hormonal disturbances.
Organochlorine pesticides, introduced in the 1940s, aren't used much anymore - most have been banned, according to Dr. Woodruff. But that doesn't mean they no longer pose a threat. The study found one form of DDT in 100 percent of the women tested.
The study turned up several phenols in pregnant women's bodies, including BPA (bisphenol-A), a compound that has been linked to reproductive and neurological problems. BPA is found in some hard plastics, the linings of food cans, and some paper receipts. Other phenols include triclosan, used in antibacterial soaps and some toothpastes.
Almost all the women in the study tested positive for perfluorinated chemicals. According to Dr. Woodruff, these fluorine-containing substances are found in food packages, food, and some fabrics.
Every single woman in the study tested positive for mono-benzyl phthalate, and that's just one of many "plasticizer" compounds found in pregnant women's bodies. Phthlates are found in toys, personal care products, and certain foods packaged in plastic containers. Phthalates have been linked to liver cancer and reduced sperm counts.
Ninety-four percent of pregnant women in the study had lead in their bodies. And lead - known to cause learning disabilities in children - isn't the only heavy metal researchers found. Mercury was found in 89 percent of the women, cadmium in 66 percent. Most of the mercury exposure comes from eating fish, says Dr. Woodruff.
Flame Retardant/Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers
One hundred percent of the women in the study tested positive for a flame retardant known as PBDE-153, and that was just one of 10 polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) found in pregnant women's bodies. PBDEs were used in furniture and computers and other electronic gear and are now found in dust and in our food.
Gasoline/Volatile Organic Compounds
The gasoline additive MTBE (methyl tert-butyl ether) is just one of many volatile organic compounds (VOCs) found in pregnant women's bodies. Others include chloroform, toluene, and benzene. VOCs - found in paint, cleaning supplies, pesticides, office equipment, building materials, and car exhaust - have been linked to health problems ranging from nose and throat discomfort to cancer.
The study found that pregnant women's bodies contained several different polychlorinated dioxins and furans, compounds that have been linked to health problems including heart disease and cancer. The compounds, byproducts of combustion and other processes, show up in meat, fish, and dairy products.
Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)
Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were banned in 1979 after they were linked to cancer. But the new study found dozens of different PCBs in pregnant women's bodies. PCBs were used to make electrical transformers and related products and are now in dust and in our food.
Organophosphates (OPs) are used as insecticides around the world. No wonder they're showing up in our bodies, including those of pregnant women. OPs have been linked to everything from cramps and headaches to neurological problems.
Cooked Foods/Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are found in car exhaust and cooked foods - and in the blood of just about every single pregnant woman tested. They have been linked to cancer and other health problems.