It’s been said that what does not kill you can make you stronger. But can there be a new saying that what can make things slicker can make you fatter?
Some recent studies seem to suggest that. A survey of 447 British girls and their mothers found that high exposure to common environmental chemicals called polyfluoroalkyl compounds (PFCs) resulted in infants who were smaller than average at birth (43rd percentile) but heavier at 20 months (58th percentile), a condition that sets the stage for obesity later in life, reports the New York Daily News.
PFCs are used in making fluoropolymers and are widely found in protective coatings for packaging products, clothes, furniture, and non-stick cookware, reports ZeeNews. PFCs are persistent compounds found abundantly in the environment.
The study was funded by the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention and analyzed by Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health. The researchers measured concentrations of PFCs in pregnant women and explored the associations between those concentrations with the children’s weight at birth and then again at 20 months.
“Previous animal and human research suggests pre-natal exposures to PFCs may have harmful effects on foetal and post-natal growth,” says 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.”
Another study in Denmark, Marcus notes, found that women exposed to PFCs in the womb were more likely to be overweight when they reached adulthood. Studies with mice have shown that exposure in the womb often leads to higher levels of insulin and heavier body weight in adulthood.
In another study, U.S. scientists office spaces are more toxic than households because of off-gassing from carpets, furniture, and paint. PFC concentrations in office environments were 3 to 5 times than that what was found in household air.
Source: “Obesity link? Prenatal exposure to household pollutants,” New York Daily News, 9/3/12
Source: “Women exposed to PFCs have obese babies,” ZeeNews, 9/2/12
Image by Ken Hammond (USDA).
Dale McGeehon has been a journalist and editor for more than 25 years, covering chemical regulation and testing for Pesticides and Toxic Chemical News and innovations in material sciences for the National Technology Transfer Center. His writing credits include Omni and College Park magazines and The New York Times.