Environmental Chemicals in an Urban Population of Pregnant Women and Their Newborns from San Francisco

Environ Sci Technol. 2016 Nov 15;50(22):12464-12472. doi: 10.1021/acs.est.6b03492. Epub 2016 Oct 26.


Exposures to environmental pollutants in utero may increase the risk of adverse health effects. We measured the concentrations of 59 potentially harmful chemicals in 77 maternal and 65 paired umbilical cord blood samples collected in San Francisco during 2010-2011, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), organochlorine pesticides (OCPs), polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), hydroxylated PBDEs (OH-PBDEs), and perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) in serum and metals in whole blood. Consistent with previous studies, we found evidence that concentrations of mercury (Hg) and lower-brominated PBDEs were often higher in umbilical cord blood or serum than in maternal samples (median cord:maternal ratio > 1), while for most PFCs and lead (Pb), concentrations in cord blood or serum were generally equal to or lower than their maternal pair (median cord:maternal ratio ≤ 1). In contrast to the conclusions of a recent review, we found evidence that several PCBs and OCPs were also often higher in cord than maternal serum (median cord:maternal ratio > 1) when concentrations are assessed on a lipid-adjusted basis. Our findings suggest that for many chemicals, fetuses may experience higher exposures than their mothers and highlight the need to characterize potential health risks and inform policies aimed at reducing sources of exposure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Environmental Pollutants*
  • Female
  • Halogenated Diphenyl Ethers*
  • Humans
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Maternal Exposure*
  • Maternal-Fetal Exchange
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls
  • Pregnancy
  • San Francisco
  • Urban Population


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Halogenated Diphenyl Ethers
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls