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Pregnant women in Brooklyn have highest levels of certain preservatives used in cosmetics

First published report on parabens in human cord blood recommends monitoring

SUNY Downstate Medical Center

Brooklyn, NY - Researchers at SUNY Downstate Medical Center and Arizona State University have published the first study of levels of parabens - antibacterial substances commonly used as preservatives in cosmetics and other products - in human cord blood samples. The researchers found that a cohort of pregnant women in Brooklyn predominantly of Caribbean- and African-American descent had the highest level worldwide of methyl paraben and propyl paraben.

The results were published online in the journal Environment International, in an article titled, "Maternal and fetal exposure to parabens in a multiethnic urban U.S. population."

The article notes that parabens have been used for decades and, at recommended levels, are "generally recognized as safe" by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the European Union. However, parabens have the potential to disrupt the expression of hormones during influential times of development, possibly affecting fetal, child, and even adult health. The authors point out that recent studies have raised awareness for potential health effects, particularly during fetal development and in children younger than six to 12 months of age, a period when detoxification systems are still immature, "and thus leaving the exposed more vulnerable," notes senior author Rolf Halden, PhD, professor and director of the Biodesign Center for Environmental Security at Arizona State University.

Article co-author Laura A. Geer, PhD, MHS, associate professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences in the School of Public Health at SUNY Downstate, said, "What we know from the study is that parabens are being transferred from pregnant women to their fetuses. This is problematic because parabens have demonstrated endocrine-disrupting potential in animal studies, leading to developmental and reproductive disorders. It is too early to know if these same effects can occur in humans, and if so, at what levels of exposure."

She adds, "I would not characterize these findings as alarming, but rather of concern, since we do not have relevant regulatory limits for these substances. The European Union countries set limits by volume per product, a good starting point. Limiting exposure to these substances is complicated because of their ubiquity in personal care and consumer products. Higher exposure levels in more vulnerable populations, such as in our study, gives further justification for us to answer the questions of what higher levels mean for health."

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In a follow-up study, the authors are examining possible impacts on birth outcomes; results are forthcoming.

The article citation is:

Pycke BF, Geer LA, Dalloul M, Abulafia O, Halden RU. Maternal and fetal exposure to parabens in a multiethnic urban U.S. population. Environ Int. (2015) Nov;84:193-200. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2015.08.012.

The research leading to the results published in Environment International was supported in part by Award Numbers R01ES015445 and R01ES020889 from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and by the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust through award number LTR 05/01/12. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIEHS or the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This initial study also received funds from the New York Community Trust (1065719). The sponsors had no role in the study outside of funding. The funding sources were not involved in the execution or publication of the study.

Journalists may obtain a copy of the full article by contacting newsroom@elsevier.com .

About SUNY Downstate Medical Center

Founded in 1860, SUNY Downstate Medical Center was the first medical school in the United States to bring teaching out of the lecture hall and to the patient's bedside. A center of innovation and excellence in research and clinical service delivery, SUNY Downstate comprises a College of Medicine, Colleges of Nursing and Health Related Professions, a School of Graduate Studies, a School of Public Health, University Hospital of Brooklyn, and an Advanced Biotechnology Park and Biotechnology Incubator. SUNY Downstate ranks twelfth nationally in the number of alumni who are on the faculty of American medical schools. More physicians practicing in New York City have graduated from SUNY Downstate than from any other medical school. http://www.downstate.edu

About Arizona State University

Arizona State University is the largest public research university in the United States under a single administration, with total student enrollment of more than 70,000 in metropolitan Phoenix, the nation's sixth-largest city. ASU is creating a new model for American higher education, an unprecedented combination of academic excellence, entrepreneurial energy and broad access. This New American University is a single, unified institution comprising four differentiated campuses positively impacting the economic, social, cultural and environmental health of the communities it serves. Its research is inspired by real-world application, blurring the boundaries that traditionally separate academic disciplines. ASU champions intellectual and cultural diversity and welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 120 nations. http://www.asu.edu.

About the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University

The Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University works to improve human health and quality of life through its translational research mission in health care, energy and the environment, global health and national security. Grounded on the premise that scientists can best solve complex problems by emulating nature, Biodesign serves as an innovation hub that fuses previously separate areas of knowledge to serve as a model for 21st century academic research. By fusing bioscience/biotechnology, nanoscale engineering and advanced computing, Biodesign's research scientists and students take an entrepreneurial team approach to accelerating discoveries to market. They also educate future generations of scientists by providing hands-on laboratory research training in state-of-the-art facilities for ASU. https://biodesign.asu.edu/

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