Parents’ exposure to chemicals prior to conception linked to child’s health problems

A couple’s exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals, psychological stress, malnutrition, and other environmental stressors prior to conceiving a child may alter the child’s genetic structure and development, leading to increased risk of health issues later in life, according to a study led by Philippe Grandjean, adjunct professor of environmental health at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and professor of environmental medicine at the University of Southern Denmark.

The paper was published online August 4, 2015 in the journal Endocrinology. It is part of a series of papers, including a consensus summary, presented at the 4th Conference on Prenatal Programming and Toxicity (PPTOX), organized in 2014 in Boston by Grandjean with support from Harvard Chan School and Harvard NIEHS Center for Environmental Health.

Endocrine disrupting chemicals include phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA) used to make plastics, and several other substances that can accumulate in the body for years. If passed on to a fetus, the exposure can raise a child’s risk of becoming obese or developing a disease such as cancer later in life, Grandjean told Healthline in an August 4, 2015 article. “This chemical burden may affect the conception, or it may affect the fetal development later on, as the mother will generally share her chemicals with her child — and that continues after childbirth, as she may also excrete these substances in the milk,” he said.

Grandjean and his co-authors discussed the need for new ways to regulate chemicals in the environment. “Unfortunately, current testing paradigms do not properly assess the impact of risk factors during vulnerable exposure windows,” he said in an Endocrine Society statement. “Without new policies and guidelines, we cannot have a universal healthy start for children.”

Other Harvard Chan School authors include: David Bellinger, professor in the Department of Environmental Health, and Qi Sun, assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition.

Read the Healthline article: Even Before Conception, Parents’ Exposure to Common Chemicals Can Affect Baby

See a related study co-authored by Grandjean in Endocrinology: Developmental Origins of Health and Disease: Integrating Environmental Influences

Read the Endocrine Society press release

Listen to an interview with Grandjean on this Endocrine Society podcast

Learn more

Growing number of chemicals linked with brain disorders in children

Cost of hormone-disrupting chemical exposure in Europe in billions

Chemical Brain Drain – Grandjean’s forum for news and discussion