Recent study indicates unsafe products cause preterm birth and smaller birth weights

With all the safety regulations concerning the chemicals used in food processing and cosmetics, one would think these products are safe to use. According to a recent study performed by SUNY Downstate Medical Center on pregnant women in Brooklyn, chemical preservatives contained in certain foods, cosmetics and personal care products, lead to preterm birth and smaller birth weights.

The study conducted by SUNY found that the preservatives in these products, long-chain parabens and triclosan, are the leading cause of these medical conditions. Research showed that the chemicals cause a disruption in the endocrine system, which leads to harmful effects of the reproductive system and the development of infants. Common products using these chemicals include lotions, antimicrobial soaps, creams and foods such as tortilla chips, certain trail mixes and muffins. 

Subtle shifts in birth size

Leading the study and associate professor at SUNY’s School of Public Health, Laura Geer stated, “While small-scale changes in birth size may not be of clinical relevance or cause for concern in individual cases, subtle shifts in birth size or timing at the population-level would have major impacts on the risk for adverse birth outcomes.”

During the study, 185 women in their third trimester of their pregnancy had their urine tested along with 35 newborns umbilical cord blood for long-chain parabens, triclosan and triclocarban. Greer noted the results in the Journal of Hazardous Materials stating, “The study found a link between women with higher levels of butyl paraben, which is commonly used as a preservative in cosmetics, and the following birth outcomes: shorter gestational age at birth, decreased birth weight, and increased odds of preterm birth.”

AMA recommended that triclosan be removed from American households

According to an article published in Today’s Practitioner, “In 2010, the Journal of the American Medical Association recommended that triclosan be removed from American households because of concerns about antibiotic resistance and thyroid health risk.” Researchers of the SUNY study noted that in 2015 the European Union put regulations in place for all consumer products to have triclosan removed. However, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have failed to issue regulations for the removal of these chemicals in cosmetics or foods and have only issued warnings on their use. 

On a positive note, there are some manufactures in the U.S. promising to phase out the use of these parabens in their personal care products and some products no longer contain them, having been voluntarily removed by the manufacturer. Minnesota has placed a ban on using triclosan beginning in 2017. 

Until government agencies in the U.S. catch up with Europe on the ban of these potentially harmful chemicals, it would be a good idea for pregnant women to check the ingredients in their personal care products before purchasing and using, to be on the safe side of their developing infant. 


Today’s Practitioner: Triclosan and parabens increase odds of preterm and low-birth weight

Journal of Hazardous Materials: Association of birth outcomes with fetal exposure to parabens, triclosan and triclocarban in an immigrant population in Brooklyn, New York