Chemicals in Food and Cosmetics Linked to Preterm Births and Low Birth Weight

A study of pregnant Brooklyn women led by the SUNY Downstate Medical Center links triclosan, an antibacterial agent common in personal care products, with preterm births and smaller newborns.

The SUNY study also linked those medical problems to long-chain parabens, which are chemicals often used as preservatives in food, cosmetics and  personal care products.

This research expands upon the growing body of scientific evidence that supports the view that triclosan and long-chain parabens disrupt the endocrine system and harm the reproductive system and infant development.

“While small-scale changes in birth size may not be of clinical relevance or cause for concern in individual cases, subtle shifts in birth size or timing at the population-level would have major impacts on the risk for adverse birth outcomes,” said lead study author Laura Geer, associate professor at SUNY’s School of Public Health

Geer and her team tested the urine of 185 mothers in their third trimester and umbilical cord blood of 34 participants for parabens, triclosan and triclocarban. These ingredients are common in antimicrobial soaps, lotions and creams.  

According to EWG’s Skin Deep cosmetics database, propylparaben is used in 7,352 personal care products; butylparaben, in 2,285 products; triclosan, in 147 products; and triclocarban, in 21 products.

People are exposed to these chemicals when they eat certain foods, use certain cosmetics and clean with some antimicrobial household products . Babies may consume them in breast milk. In fact, in an earlier study, the SUNY research team detected elevated levels of these compounds in a group of mothers and infants

According to a survey conducted last March  by the Mellman Group and American Viewpoint, Americans likely to vote overwhelmingly support stricter regulation of chemicals in personal care products. The federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act, which was supposed to guarantee the safety of cosmetics, is nearly 80 years old and falls far short of ensuring that personal care products are safe.

Until stronger regulations bans or restricts these potentially harmful chemicals from everyday products, use EWG’s Food Scores database and Skin Deep to identify healthier choices for yourself and your home.

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