January 24, 2022 1:07 pm

Chemical pollutants and diseases in pregnant women

Francisco Martin Leon 5 min
The study has detected chemical compounds in the blood and placenta of pregnant women. / Piqsels

A job led by researchers from the Institute for Environmental Diagnosis and Water Studies (IDAEA-CSIC) in collaboration with the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), a center promoted by the La Caixa Foundation, has evaluated accumulated chemical pollutants in the blood and pleasures of pregnant women. The objective of the study is to find the possible relationship between pollutants and the development of diseases in pregnant women. In a first plioto test, the team of researchers, who analyzed samples from a group of 19 women from Barcelona between September 2019 and March 2020, identified 42 chemical compounds of anthropogenic and potentially harmful origin, although at levels that do not pose a risk to health. The results have been published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters.

Among the compounds found there are pesticides, insect repellants, cosmetic derivatives and industrial compounds such as flame retardants or plastic additives.

Although there is no evidence that the levels found pose a risk to human health, this study should create greater awareness about the compounds to which we are exposed on a daily basis and for which we must reduce said exposure”, Declares the IDAEA-CSIC researcher Pablo Gago Ferrero, lead author of the study. This is especially relevant in the case of plastic additives such as phthalates, which have been linked to endocrine diseases and therefore need to be monitored more closely.

The study also has identified nicotine and its derivatives in 60% of women, despite the fact that pregnant women did not smoke and had healthy lifestyles, which implies that there is a detectable passive exposure to tobacco. Another compound detected in most pregnant women is benzododecinium, which is found in some of the best-selling disinfectants and has been widely used during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The work also tries to assess whether the Pollutant analysis in wastewater can provide a good approximation of pollutant levels of the population of a certain area. The results have been positive. “Frequently analyzing the compounds that accumulate in the population is quite complex logistically and not economically viable. We have observed that sewage sludge is a good approximation of human exposure and, therefore, this methodology could be applied as an early warning system that could avoid chemical threats”, Indicates Gago Ferrero.

This research carried out together with ISGlobal, a center promoted by the La Caixa Foundation, is part of a larger study that will be carried out with 1,100 pregnant women in the city of Barcelona and whose objective will be to determine the potential cause-effect relationship between the presence of these pollutants and the development of certain diseases or changes in metabolism in mothers and offspring. The study, which is funded by the “la Caixa” Foundation and the Barcelona City Council, will expand the knowledge of the chemical pollutants to which the population is exposed, even before birth, to warn of these compounds and prevent future diseases. “This will allow us to determine what effects exposure to these chemicals may have on neonates. We know that pollutants are present in pregnant women, we need to find out what their impact on the development of babies is to implement prevention measures ”, concludes Gago Ferrero.


Rubén Gil-Solsona, Maria-Christina Nika, Mariona Bustamante, Cristina M. Villanueva, Maria Foraster, Marta Cosin-Tomás, Nikiforos Algizakis, Maria Dolores Gómez-Roig, Elisa Llurba-Olive, Jordi Sunyer, Nikolaos S. Thomaidis, Payam Dadvand , Pablo Gago-Ferrero. 2021. The potential of sewage sludge to predict and evaluate the human’s chemical exposome. Environmental Science & Letters, 2021. DOI: 10.1021/acs.estlett.1c00848

Alicia Arroyo / IDAEA-CSIC Communication

This entry was published in Reports on Nov 26, 2021 by Francisco Martín León


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