A recent study carried out by the Institute for Environmental Diagnosis and Water Studies (IDAEA-CSIC) has revealed the discovery of up to 11 new chemical substances in the umbilical cord blood of 69 newborn babies in Barcelona. These compounds include several ultraviolet (UV) filters widely used in the manufacture of sun creams, as well as parabens, ingredients commonly used in cosmetic products.
The presence of these compounds in the blood of the umbilical cord could have negative effects in the early stages of fetal and infant development, since they are transferred from the mother to the fetus through the placental barrier.
Although this is not the first time contaminants have been detected in the umbilical cord, this group of 11 compounds, including widely used sunscreens, is causing growing concern. These chemicals have recently been identified in a variety of samples, posing a risk to both human health and the environment.
Dr. SílviaDíaz-Cruz, IDAEA-CSIC researcher and lead author of the study, comments: “We have detected benzophenone-3 (oxybenzone), the most widely used UV filter worldwide for sun protection and which is currently prohibited in some countries, in 17% of the umbilical cord samples that we analysed. This endocrine disruptor affects reproduction and increases the risk of endometriosis, infertility, and complications during pregnancy and childbirth.
Chemical Compounds Detected In the Umbilical Cord
Another of the UV filters found is avobenzone, present in 15% of the umbilical cord samples and detected for the first time in this study. Avobenzone is a common component in sun creams and other body care products due to its broad protection against solar radiation. However, this compound can interfere with the natural action of estrogens and favor the development of childhood obesity. In addition, elevated concentrations of benzophenone-2, another known endocrine disruptor, were detected.
Dr. Díaz-Cruz highlights: “The problem with these compounds is that, as they are contaminants that have recently emerged as a cause for concern, a human exposure limit has not been established in the regulations.” However, for cosmetic products, the law requires that benzophenone-3 and avobenzone not exceed 6% and 4% of the total weight of the product, respectively.
The research team points out that the main route of exposure to these compounds is skin contact, although they can also enter the body through contaminated food or water, as well as through air inhalation. Among the other chemical products found for the first time in the umbilical cord, the presence of the antioxidant MBM stands out, used as an additive in plastic containers.
Still research to be done
“Given the limited number of samples analyzed in our study, these results should be considered as a preliminary reference to investigate the transfer of chemical compounds through the umbilical cord in a broader population,” concludes the doctor. The authors emphasize the need for long-term monitoring to understand the possible negative effects of these compounds and to be able to establish more appropriate regulations in terms of human health and the environment.