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Public Health Impact of Coal and Electricity Consumption: Risk–Benefit Balance Varies by Country

Environmental Health Perspectives
Environmental Health Perspectives
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A 258 volume 119 | number 6 | June 2011 • Environmental Health Perspectives News | Science Selections © C hr is S to w er s/ Pa no s Pi ct ur es Chemical Count Quantifying Exposures in Pregnant Women A nationally representative assessment of pregnant women’s exposure to 163 chemicals reveals what the authors term “ubiquitous exposure to multiple chemicals during a sensitive period of development” [EHP 119(6):878–885; Woodruff et al.]. The new study is based on samples collected and analyzed as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2003–2004. The researchers assessed data for 268 pregnant women between the ages of 15 and 44. Chemical analytes assessed included metals, perf luorinated compounds, organochlorine pesticides, organo­ phosphate insecticide metabolites, phthalates, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), phenols, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxin­like chemicals, perchlorate, triclosan, and volatile organic compounds. Not all analytes were measured in all women. The study showed the pregnant women had widespread exposure to substances banned decades ago as well as contemporary con­ taminants. Several of the chemical analytes assessed were detected in 99–100% of the pregnant women. There was substantial variation in the levels of individual analytes to which pregnant women were exposed. Most notably, the difference between the geometric mean and 95th percentile for phthalates and one PBDE, BDE­153, varied by more than an order of magnitude. More research is needed to identify the major sources of exposure to these compounds among pregnant women and the general population, the authors say. Although no health effects were assessed as part of this study, levels of many chemicals detected—including mercury, phthalates, PBDEs, and PCBs—were similar to those associated with adverse reproductive and developmental effects in epidemiologic studies. The study also

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