‘Forever Chemicals’ Linked to Low Birth Weight, Obesity

1 min read

June 8, 2023 -- Exposure to toxic “forever chemicals” during pregnancy can lead to a lower birth weight followed later by obesity -- similar to the results of prenatal exposure to tobacco.

These findings were in new research published by Environmental Health Perspectives

“Something similar is going on with PFAS,” said Joe Braun, a Brown University researcher and study co-author, in The Guardian.

PFAS (polyfluoroalkyl substances) is a group of about 15,000 chemicals that are added to a wide range of consumer products. They have been linked to serious health issues, including a higher risk of cancer, thyroid disease and birth defects. They do not naturally break down in the environment and have even been found in all 30,000 umbilical cord blood samples in a collection of studies.

“Though previous research found evidence suggesting the chemicals are linked to obesity early and later in life, including some research from the new study’s authors, the findings were generally inconclusive,” The Guardian wrote. “The authors say the new research is more definitive because it included a larger sample size, greater geographic coverage, longer timespan and a wider range of exposure levels.”

Braun said that babies born underweight because of PFAS can catch up quickly in weight but not height -- with the weight gain coming sooner for kids who will not be a normal weight. A similar process happens with kids whose mothers smoked during pregnancy.

Show Sources

Environmental Health Perspectives: “Associations of Gestational Perfluoroalkyl Substances Exposure with Early Childhood BMI z-Scores and Risk of Overweight/Obesity: Results from the ECHO Cohorts.”

The Guardian: “‘Forever chemicals’ exposure can lead to low birth weight and obesity in later life.”

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