Toxic Chemicals in Umbilical Cord Blood


Laboratory tests commissioned by the Environmental Working Group, in conjunction with Rachel’s Network, have detected bisphenol A (BPA) and as many as 232 chemicals in the umbilical cord blood of American newborns. Although the test sample was small, it highlights evidence that children are being exposed to dangerous chemicals in the womb.

The two-year study involved testing randomly selected samples of umbilical cord blood from ten newborns, all of minority descent. Nine of the samples tested positive for BPA, a toxin that is ubiquitous in the environment since it is found in hundreds of everyday products, including plastics and health care items. BPA has been associated with a variety of serious chronic health problems, including cancer, behavior impairments in children, endocrine system disruption, reproductive system abnormalities, diabetes, asthma, and heart problems.

In addition to BPA, the tests revealed as many as 232 chemicals in the ten newborns. The findings were alarming enough for Senator Frank R. Lautenberg to mention the study during the Senate hearing on December 2, 2009, the Full Committee and Subcommittee on Superfund, Toxics and Environmental Health joint hearing entitled, “Oversight Hearing on the Federal Toxic Substances Control Act.”


Senator Lautenberg requested that the Environmental Working Group study be entered into the record, given the serious nature of its findings. He noted that these newborns had been exposed to toxins while still in the womb, and that “this means these children face the possibility of chronic, life-long health problems from the day they are born.”

The dangers presented by exposure to toxic chemicals to pregnant women and their infants has been a concern of scientists and health experts for some time. In June 2009, the Endocrine Society noted that “even infinitesimally low levels of exposure [to chemicals that disrupt the endocrine system]—indeed, any level of exposure at all—may cause endocrine or reproductive abnormalities.”

The Environmental Working Group notes on its website “that any chemical found in cord blood should be given highest priority for tough regulatory action to protect public health.” BPA can enter cord blood from food and beverage containers, such as metal cans lined with BPA-based epoxy resin and beverages that are in polycarbonate plastic containers that contain BPA, as the chemical leaches into the food and liquid it touches.

Environmental Working Group
Senator Lautenberg to the US Senate “Oversight Hearing on the Federal Toxic Substances Control Act," December 2, 2009