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Unborn babies soaked in chemicals, study finds

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  • Unborn babies soaked in chemicals, study finds

    Updated: 4:49 p.m. ET July 14, 2005

    Average of 287 contaminants found in cord blood of U.S. infants

    WASHINGTON - Unborn U.S. babies are soaking in a stew of chemicals, including mercury, gasoline byproducts and pesticides, according to a report released Thursday.

    Although the effects on the babies are not clear, the survey prompted several members of Congress to press for legislation that would strengthen controls on chemicals in the environment.

    The report by the Environmental Working Group is based on tests of 10 samples of umbilical-cord blood taken by the American Red Cross. They found an average of 287 contaminants in the blood, including mercury, fire retardants, pesticides and the Teflon chemical PFOA.

    Cord blood reflects what the mother passes to the baby through the placenta.

    Mercury and pesticides

    Among the chemicals found in the cord blood were methylmercury, produced by coal-fired power plants and certain industrial processes. People can breathe it in or eat it in seafood and it causes brain and nerve damage.

    Also found were polyaromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, which are produced by burning gasoline and garbage and which may cause cancer; flame-retardant chemicals called polybrominated dibenzodioxins and furans; and pesticides including DDT and chlordane.

    The same group analyzed the breast milk of mothers across the United States in 2003 and found varying levels of chemicals, including flame retardants known as PBDEs. This latest analysis also found PBDEs in cord blood.

    Slaughter had similar tests done on her own blood.

    The Government Accountability Office issued a report Wednesday saying the Environmental Protection Agency does not have the powers it needs to fully regulate toxic chemicals.

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