Recent environmental articles have increasingly focused on the potential dangers of chemicals that seem ever present and almost unavoidable in many facets of modern life. At CRECE, PROTECT and ECHO, we study many different chemicals which are present in the environment and lifestyle products to see how they impact pregnancy outcomes and children’s development in our Puerto Rican cohort.

Our researchers chose to study phenols, parabens and triclocarban because they are ubiquitous chemicals found in a variety of consumer products, such as lotions, soaps, makeup, plastics and pesticides. While these chemicals have been detected in human urine globally our CRECE/ECHO team wanted to compare a sample of the Puerto Rican population, based on our PROTECT Cohort, against the rest of the U.S. population.  Phenols are organic compounds which are toxic to consume, inhale, or absorb and can be deadly, but is often used in medical procedures as an ingredient to treatments and has many lab applications. [1] Parabens are a group of chemicals used as preservative ingredients which are often found in personal care, food, and pharmaceutical products and have been associated with endocrine disruption. [2] Triclocarban, similar to triclosan, is an antimicrobial active ingredient used in various personal care products such as deodorants, bar soap, detergents, lotions, and wipes. [3]

Because some of these chemicals have been linked to changes in hormone levels, researchers wanted to examine the relationship between these chemicals and maternal hormones during pregnancy. Hormones play an important role in maintaining pregnancy and the health of the fetus, so researchers looked at ten reproductive and thyroid hormones in relation to triclocarban, and eleven phenols and parabens. They also examined these associations at different time points: 16-20 weeks gestation and 24-28 weeks gestation. The strongest associations included a decrease in total triiodothyronine with an increase in benzophenone-3, butyl-paraben, triclosan and triclocarban. Bisphenol-S, benzophenone-3, triclosan and butyl-paraben were associated with an increase in thyroid stimulating hormone. Parabens were associated with a decrease in sex hormone binding globulin. These relationships differed depending on the timing of exposure. In conclusion, these chemicals found in common modern life staples were linked to a variety of different affects on the hormone levels that assist pregnancy and their levels were higher in our cohort than those on the U.S. mainland.

This study was among the largest studies conducted on these relationships in a pregnancy cohort with several time points. More studies are required to confirm our results. However, this lends evidence to the potential endocrine disrupting effects of phenols, parabens and triclocarban. To learn more about this study, visit the recent publication available here.