Washington: Pregnant women who are exposed to common environmental chemicals, especially polyfluoroalkyl compounds (PFCs), have smaller babies at birth but larger at 20 months, according to an Emory University study.
PFCs, used in the production of fluoropolymers, are found widely in protective coatings of packaging products, clothes, furniture and non-stick cookware. They are persistent compounds found abundantly in the environment.
PFCs have been detected in human sera, breast milk and cord blood.
The study, funded by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, included 447 girls and their mothers in the UK participating in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, a large-scale health research project, the journal Environmental Health Perspectives reported.
Researchers from Emory`s Rollins School of Public Health found that even though girls with higher exposure were smaller than average at birth, they were heavier than average by 20 months of age. The authors say this path may lead to obesity at older ages, according to a university statement.
"Previous animal and human research suggests pre-natal exposures to PFCs may have harmful effects on foetal and post-natal growth," said Michele Marcus, professor of epidemiology at Rollins School, who led the study.
"Our findings are consistent with these studies and emerging evidence that chemicals in our environment are contributing to obesity and diabetes and demonstrate that this trajectory is set very early in life for those exposed," added Marcus.
According to Marcus, a recent study in Denmark found that women exposed to PFCs in the womb were more likely to be overweight at age 20. And experimental studies with mice have shown that exposure in the womb led to higher levels of insulin and heavier body weight in adulthood.