Pregnant women are exposed to toxic chemicals in dishware, hair coloring, plastics and pesticides that can heighten their risk of cancer and harm child development, a new study warns.
Melamine and its major byproduct, cyanuric acid, were found in nearly all the 171 women in the study and levels were highest among women of color and those exposed to tobacco.
In addition, four aromatic amines that are used in dyes and pigments were also found in nearly all pregnant participants.
"These chemicals are of serious concern due to their links to cancer and developmental toxicity, yet they are not routinely monitored in the United States," researcher Tracey Woodruff said in a news release from the University of California, San Francisco. She directs the university's Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment.
Melamine is found in dishware, plastics, flooring, kitchen counters and pesticides. Cyanuric acid is used as a disinfectant, plastic stabilizer and cleaning solvent in swimming pools. Aromatic amines are found in hair dye, mascara, tattoo ink, paint, tobacco smoke and diesel exhaust, the researchers said.
People can be exposed to the chemicals through the air they breathe, through ingestion or using products that contain plastic, dyes and pigments.
When exposure to melamine and cyanuric acid happens together, they can be more toxic than either one alone, researchers said in background notes.
For the study, the investigators measured 45 chemicals linked with cancer and other risks in urine samples from a diverse group of 171 women who were part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health's Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes Program.
"It's disconcerting that we continue to find higher levels of many of these harmful chemicals in people of color," said study co-author Jessie Buckley, an associate professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.
For example, levels of 3,4-dichloroaniline (a chemical used in the production of dyes and pesticides) were more than 100% higher among Black and Hispanic women compared with white women.
"Our findings raise concerns for the health of pregnant women and fetuses since some of these chemicals are known carcinogens and potential developmental toxicants," said co-author Giehae Choi, a postdoctoral fellow at the Bloomberg School of Public Health. "Regulatory action is clearly needed to limit exposure."
Researchers noted that melamine was recognized as a kidney toxicant after baby formula and pet food poisoning incidents in 2004, 2007 and 2008.
The findings were published Aug. 30 in the journal Chemosphere.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has tips for a healthy pregnancy.
SOURCE: University of California, San Francisco, news release, Aug. 29, 2022