Pregnancy: Consumer goods chemicals damage the children's IQ

Pregnancy: Consumer goods chemicals damage the children's IQ

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Widely used chemicals damage the IQ of young people in the long term

We are exposed to numerous chemicals every day, some of which have an endocrine (hormonal) effect that can have a lasting impact on our hormonal system. Many of these chemicals come from consumer goods and even pregnant women can hardly avoid exposure. A current study made it clear what far-reaching consequences this could have.

A research team from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (USA) and Karlstad University (Sweden) has investigated the effects of contact with various chemicals during pregnancy on the intelligence of the offspring. The result is worrying: at the age of seven, there was a significantly lower intelligence quotient for the offspring, the researchers report. Her study results were published in the specialist magazine "Environment International".

Stress in pregnant women examined

In the first trimester of their pregnancies, 718 pregnant women had blood and urine tests for 26 chemicals, including bisphenol A (BPA), phthalates and other chemicals in consumer goods, and pesticides, the research team reports. Some of these chemicals are known to affect endocrine (hormonal) activity in humans. The others have so far only been suspected of having an endocrine effect because they share chemical properties with the known confounding factors.

Reduced intelligence quotient at high loads

In a further study of the children aged seven, the researchers found that their IQ was lower when the mothers were exposed to high levels of chemicals during pregnancy. This was especially true for boys. Among the chemical compounds, bisphenol F (BPF) was the largest contributor to the reduction in children's IQ, the researchers report. This shows that BPF is no safer for children than BPA.

Even short-term exposure is harmful

Other chemicals that have been associated with an adverse effect include chlorpyrifos (pesticide), polyfluorinated alkyl compounds (found in detergents), triclosan (found in antibacterial soaps) and phthalates (found in soft polyvinylchloride plastics and cosmetics). Many of the chemicals only remain in the body for a short time, but even the short-term exposure can be harmful, the researchers report.

Impending developmental damage to the fetus

Some of these chemicals cross the placenta during pregnancy and may cause irreversible developmental damage to the fetus, the research team continued. The chemicals interfere with hormone activity, even at low levels, and previous studies had linked them to neurodegenerative difficulties in children. Now the long-term negative effects on children's intelligence have been confirmed.

Chemical pollution should be reduced

Exposure to chemical mixtures from common consumer goods can affect children's brain development and some chemicals that are considered safer (like BPF) are by no means safer for children, says Professor Dr. Carl-Gustaf Bornehag from Karlstad University. The exposure of pregnant women (and women who want to have children) to these chemicals urgently needs to be reduced in order to avoid neurological damage in the children. (fp)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Dipl. Geogr. Fabian Peters


  • Eva M. Tanner, Maria Unenge Hallerbäck, Sverre Wikström, Christian Lindh, Hannu Kiviranta, Chris Gennings, Carl-Gustaf Bornehag: Early prenatal exposure to suspected endocrine disruptor mixtures is associated with lower IQ at age seven; in: Environment International (published October 24, 2019),
  • Mount Sinai Hospita: Chemicals in consumer products during early pregnancy related to lower IQ (published 10/24/2019),

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