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Chemicals and Pregnancy Complications: Findings from Nontargeted Analysis

September 14, 2023 , 1:00 pm 2:00 pm EDT

Toxic chemicals are ubiquitous in the environment. Fewer than one percent of the more than 40,000 chemicals imported, processed, or used in the U.S. are regularly biomonitored. Still fewer have been evaluated for adverse health outcomes during pregnancy. Chemical exposures during pregnancy have been linked with lifelong consequences for maternal and child health including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, adverse infant neurodevelopment, and reproductive outcomes. These health outcomes are increasing at rates that cannot be fully explained by genetics or improvements in diagnostics.

Non-targeted analysis (NTA) methods can help tentatively identify chemicals that are not regularly studied. These chemicals can then be quantified through “targeted” methods, giving us the ability to evaluate associations with adverse health outcomes.

Dr. Jessica Trowbridge and Dr. Tracey Woodruff will present findings of their new study, Extending Nontargeted Discovery of Environmental Chemical Exposures during Pregnancy and Their Association with Pregnancy Complications—A Cross-Sectional Study. This research uses the results of NTA methods to identify nine environmental chemicals in maternal samples and in cord blood, and their association with adverse pregnancy outcomes — measuring some of these chemicals for the first time in pregnant people.

Researchers found that chemical exposure is widespread, including to perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), abnormal fatty acids used in plastics production, and solvents used in consumer products, pesticide production, and plastics production. PFAS and abnormal fatty acids were found to be associated with increased odds of gestational diabetes mellitus and hypertensive disorders of pregnancy.

This study demonstrates the power of non-targeted methods to identify and measure environmental chemicals that are not regularly studied. It adds to the evidence that exposure to environmental contaminants can have lifelong consequences for pregnancy and health.

This webinar will be moderated by Sharyle Patton, Director of the Biomonitoring Resource Center and member of the CHE Advisory Team.


To Stop Plastic Pollution