Chemicals in consumer products linked to lower IQs in children

Scientists find common chemicals can negatively impact pregnant women.

Pixabay/Getty Images.
  • Researchers find a link between the use of chemicals by pregnant women and lower IQs in children by age 7.
  • The scientists looked at chemical exposure in women in the first trimester of pregnancy.
  • The issue particularly affects boys.


Researchers found that exposure to certain chemicals in consumer products during the first trimester of pregnancy is linked to lower IQ in children by age 7. Among the first of its kind, the study, carried out by scientists from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and Karlstad University, Sweden, linked mixtures of suspected endocrine-disrupting chemicals to prenatal neurodevelopment.

The research analyzed data from SELMA, a study of Swedish mothers and children during the first trimester of pregnancy, measuring 26 chemicals in the blood and urine of 718 mothers. The chemicals included bisphenol A (BPA), commonly found in plastic food and drink containers, as well as pesticides, phthalates, and others. Some of the 26 are established to affect the endocrine (hormone) activity while others are suspected to do so.

The scientists revisited the families when children reached age 7, finding that the kids whose mothers had greater amounts of chemicals in their system while pregnant exhibited lower IQ scores. This particularly affected boys, whose scores were two points lower. From all the chemicals, the greatest contribution to lower IQ was found to be from the compound bisphenol F (BPF), a BPA-replacement.

Credit: Environmental International

Other potentially harmful chemicals included the pesticide chloropyrifos, polyfluoroalkyl substances from cleaning products, triclosan, found in antibacterial soaps, soft polyvinyl chloride plastics and phthalates, which are used in cosmetics as well as numerous other products like soaps, nail polish, hairspray, shower curtains, raincoats, car interiors and even dryer sheets, as reported Scientific American.

Many of the chemicals only stay in the body for a short period of time, indicating that even being exposed to them briefly can have a negative effect. Previous studies linked endocrine disruptors to neurodevelopmental issues in children.

Eva Tanner, PhD, MPH, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Environmental Medicine and Public Health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, put their study in perspective —

"This study is significant because most studies evaluate one chemical at a time; however, humans are exposed to many chemicals at the same time, and multiple exposures may be harmful even when each individual chemical is at a low level," said Tanner.

Why ‘mom guilt’ is an unreasonable term

Professor Carl-Gustaf Bornehag of Karlstad University reiterated that being exposed to chemical mixtures in regular consumer products can affect the developing brains of children. Even chemicals that are supposed to be safer, like BPF, are not likely any better.

The scientists call for more research to confirm and expand upon their findings.

Check out the study here, published in Environment International.

A still from the film "We Became Fragments" by Luisa Conlon , Lacy Roberts and Hanna Miller, part of the Global Oneness Project library.

Photo: Luisa Conlon , Lacy Roberts and Hanna Miller / Global Oneness Project
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Stories are at the heart of learning, writes Cleary Vaughan-Lee, Executive Director for the Global Oneness Project. They have always challenged us to think beyond ourselves, expanding our experience and revealing deep truths.
  • Vaughan-Lee explains 6 ways that storytelling can foster empathy and deliver powerful learning experiences.
  • Global Oneness Project is a free library of stories—containing short documentaries, photo essays, and essays—that each contain a companion lesson plan and learning activities for students so they can expand their experience of the world.
Keep reading Show less

Four philosophers who realized they were completely wrong about things

Philosophers like to present their works as if everything before it was wrong. Sometimes, they even say they have ended the need for more philosophy. So, what happens when somebody realizes they were mistaken?

Sartre and Wittgenstein realize they were mistaken. (Getty Images)
Culture & Religion

Sometimes philosophers are wrong and admitting that you could be wrong is a big part of being a real philosopher. While most philosophers make minor adjustments to their arguments to correct for mistakes, others make large shifts in their thinking. Here, we have four philosophers who went back on what they said earlier in often radical ways. 

Keep reading Show less

Ashamed over my mental illness, I realized drawing might help me – and others – cope

Just before I turned 60, I discovered that sharing my story by drawing could be an effective way to both alleviate my symptoms and combat that stigma.

Photo by JJ Ying on Unsplash
Mind & Brain

I've lived much of my life with anxiety and depression, including the negative feelings – shame and self-doubt – that seduced me into believing the stigma around mental illness: that people knew I wasn't good enough; that they would avoid me because I was different or unstable; and that I had to find a way to make them like me.

Keep reading Show less

Sexual activity linked to higher cognitive function in older age

A joint study by two England universities explores the link between sex and cognitive function with some surprising differences in male and female outcomes in old age.

The results of this one-of-a-kind study suggest there are significant associations between sexual activity and number sequencing/word recall in men.
Image by Lightspring on Shutterstock
Mind & Brain
  • A joint study by the universities of Coventry and Oxford in England has linked sexual activity with higher cognitive abilities in older age.
  • The results of this study suggest there are significant associations between sexual activity and number sequencing/word recall in men. In women, however, there was a significant association between sexual activity in word recall alone - number sequencing was not impacted.
  • The differences in testosterone (the male sex hormone) and oxytocin (a predominantly female hormone) may factor into why the male cognitive level changes much more during sexual activity in older age.
Keep reading Show less
Scroll down to load more…