Non-Stick Cookware Chemicals May Affect Birth Weight: Study

New research has found a direct link between low birth weight in babies and the mother’s concentration of polyfluoroalkyl compounds (PFCs), a common environmental chemical that is used in a number of consumer products, including non-stick pots and pans. 

According to a study published online by the journal Environmental Health Perspectives on August 30, pregnant women who are exposed to high levels of PFCs may face a greater risk of having babies with lower birth weights and a higher weight at 20 months of age, compared to the pregnant women with a lower PFC level exposure.

The Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children followed 447 mothers and their unborn girl babies from birth through 20 months. Serum samples were taken from the mothers during pregnancy between 1991 and 1992 to determine if there was a correlation between prenatal PFC concentrations and weight at birth as well as weight changes through the 20 months mark.

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At 20 months of age girls with higher PFC levels in-utero were found to weigh 1.3 pounds more, on average, than girls born to mothers with lower PFC levels.

PFC’s are used in the production of fluoropolymer chemicals that produce a strong, nearly indestructible chemical bond. While these chemicals were once seemingly harmless and though to be inert, they are now discovered to be much more harmful. PFCs are found in many brand name products going by names such as Teflon, Stainmaster and Scotchguard.

Varying PFC compounds were measured during the study, including perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOs), perfluorooctanoate (PFOA), and perfluorohexane sulfonate (PFHxS). All three types of fluoropolymers were detected in 100 percent of the samples of the pregnant women tested.

Researchers say PFCs are commonly found in human blood, breast milk and cord blood. Many PFCs are found worldwide in humans, the environment and wildlife and humans are consistently exposed to PFCs in non-stick cookware, clothes, furniture and protective coatings in food products.

In more recent years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has begun to regulate products containing PFCs much more closely. The EPA cites the numerous adverse affects to humans, including reproductive, developmental and systemic adverse effects.

While the girls with the highest prenatal exposure to PFCs had the lowest birth weight, they also were the heaviest at 20 months of age. These results lead researchers to reevaluate the link between PFCs and obesity later in life.


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