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Researchers have found that exposure to chemicals found in common household products during pregnancy may increase the risk of childhood obesity. These chemicals, known as polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), are present in firefighting forms, medical products, personal care products, food packaging, and various household items. PFAS are considered toxic and have a long lifespan, potentially lasting for thousands of years in the environment.

PFAS increases the risk of childhood obesity

The study focused on seven types of these chemicals, analyzing blood samples from pregnant mothers and calculating the BMI of their children. Over a two-decade period, researchers from Brown University examined data from nearly 1,400 children aged two to five and their mothers.

Dr. Yun Liu, a postdoctoral research associate in epidemiology at the Brown University School of Public Health, states that the study’s conclusions were derived from eight distinct research cohorts situated in various regions of the United States, encompassing diverse demographics. This cohort diversity enhances our study findings’ applicability to the overall population.

The research team discovered a direct correlation between the levels of PFAS in mothers’ blood during pregnancy and the likelihood of their children developing obesity, even at low concentrations. Notably, this heightened risk was consistent across both male and female children.

Children susceptible to detrimental health effects of PFAs

Study author Professor Joseph Braun said that the presence of these connections at relatively low levels within a modern population indicates that despite reducing the use of PFAS in products, pregnant individuals today may still face potential risks. Consequently, the study suggests that their children might also be susceptible to detrimental health effects associated with PFAS.

Dr. Braun is optimistic that this data can play a pivotal role in shaping environmental policies and safety guidelines.

According to Braun, there is a persistent need to comprehend the impact of low-level PFAS exposure on children’s well-being. Studies like the current one serve to provide valuable insights to researchers and policymakers, aiding in their understanding of PFAS risks and enabling them to take proactive measures to safeguard vulnerable populations.