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POISONED IN THE WOMB


POISONED IN THE WOMB
Revealed: The cocktail of toxins passed to unborn babies
By: FIONA MACRAE

BABIES in the womb are being exposed to cocktails of toxic chemicals, shocking research has revealed.

Their blood is swimming with dangerous compounds found in everyday household cleaners, perfumes and even pans and furniture.

The chemicals, passed from the mother through the umbilical cord, have been linked to cancers, genital abnormalities and birth defects.

Experts say even tiny doses in developing bodies could create a horrific legacy in later life. Alarmingly, there has been no research on the damage from combinations of the chemicals.

Researchers checked for 35 common chemicals in blood taken from the umbilical cords of 30 newborn babies and from more than 40 new mothers.

All the babies had at least five compounds in their blood and some had as many as 14.

Two mothers had cocktails of 17 different chemicals in their blood. Overall, 30 of the 35 chemicals were detected in one or more samples.

The study revealed that mothers can pass on up to a third of the pollutants which may have built up in their bodies over long periods.

Among the chemicals were phthalates, which are used in soap, makeup and plastics and were shown earlier this year to disrupt the development of baby boys' reproductive organs.

Bisphenol A, found in cans, baby bottles and CDs, is linked to breast cancer. Scientists have shown that even low levels of exposure to it in the womb could increase the risk of breast cancer in adulthood.

Artificial musks, used in cosmetics and perfumes, have been linked to cancer, as have the chemicals responsible for making pans non-stick and clothing water-resistant.

There are also fears that many fire retardants, used in furniture and electrical products, could affect brain development in early life, leading to learning difficulties.

Last night campaigners demanded urgent action to protect children, calling on Governments to make industries use safer alternatives.

The study, by scientists at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, was commissioned by the environmental campaign groups Greenpeace and WWF, formerly the World Wildlife Fund.

Helen Perivier of Greenpeace said: 'It is shocking that such chemicals are in the human body at any stage of our life, let alone at the very start, when the child is most vulnerable.

'Governments need to act and require industries to substitute these contaminating chemicals with safer alternatives.' Colin Butfield of WWF said unborn babies could be especially vulnerable to the effects of these chemicals.

Even in very low doses, they could still be toxic, leaving the growing child with serious health problems.

Mr Butfield added: 'We are incredibly worried by these results. We simply do not know how small a dose is considered safe ­ no studies have been done to verify this one way or another.

'A lot of studies are showing that very low doses can have very strong effects at certain times in a child's development.

'There is an increasing amount of data suggesting that timing is as important as dose level.

'These chemicals have inherent hazardous properties and we don't think they should be in the human body at any level and, therefore, they should not be in products that could lead to them ending up in the human body.' Mr Butfield said there had been no research on the effects of the different chemicals mixing together inside the body.

'The long-term effects could be disastrous,' he said. 'We simply don't know ­ there haven't been enough studies to show the effect of these cocktails of chemicals.' Both WWF and Greenpeace are lobbying the European Commission to tighten up the regulation of these commonly-used chemicals in forthcoming legislation.

Mr Butfield, who heads WWF's chemicals and health campaign, said: 'It is important to lobby the Government because it is not right these chemicals should be allowed to slip through and end up in everyday products. If these chemicals are "adequately controlled", as industry claims, how do they end up in unborn babies?' The Government said last night it was committed to protecting our health.

A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said the Government aimed to make 'significant progress' on the EU legislation 'to ensure a high level of protection of human health and the environment, taking into account competitiveness'.

f.macrae@dailymail.co.uk Case study ELIZABETH Salter Green first had her blood tested for chemicals in 1999, when she was planning to marry and start a family.

She wanted to be sure she would be giving her children the best possible start. The results of the test, carried out by a private London clinic, showed her body was harbouring high levels of at least 30 hazardous chemicals, including phthalates and pesticides.

Mrs Salter Green, 41, from West London, was so shocked that she made dramatic changes to her lifestyle before becoming pregnant with Florence, now three.

She said: 'I stopped getting my clothes dry-cleaned and tried to eat less of the foods known to have high levels of toxins, such as red meat and dairy products, and eat more organic food instead. I also cut down on packaged food and ready meals and stopped using non-stick pans.

'I was really careful in agricultural environments and took care not to go for walks in the country when farmers were crop-spraying.

'I didn't use pesticides in my own garden, but I would have stopped that too.' A second test three years later showed the chemical levels had fallen sharply but, even so, some were detected in her breast milk.

Mrs Salter Green, an WWF worker who also has an 18-monthold son, said: 'I feel extremely angry with the Government and industry for letting this go on'.

THE DANGER TOXINS Eight types of chemicals were tested for in the umbilical cords of babies and blood of new mothers: ALKYLPHENOLS Found in: Industrial detergents, pesticides Possible effects: Defects in sperm and male sexual organs ARTIFICIAL MUSKS Found in: Cosmetics, perfumes, cleaning products Possible effects: Cancer BISPHENOL A Found in: Tin cans, baby bottles, CDs, plastic lunchboxes Possible effects: Prostate and breast cancer BROMINATED FLAME RETARDANTS Found in: Furniture, electrical goods Possible effects: Learning disorders and memory problems ORGANOCHOLORINE PESTICIDES Found in: Oily fish, other foods Possible effects: Cancer PERFLUORINATED COMPOUNDS Found in: Non-stick pans, waterresistant clothing Possible effects: Bladder cancer PHTHALATES Found in: Soap, makeup, clingfilm Possible effects: Genital abnormalities in boys, asthma and birth defects TRICLOSAN Found in: Soap, toothpaste, deodorant, chopping boards Possible effects: Liver damage
©Daily Mail