Montazeri P, Güil-Oumrait N, Marquez S, Cirugeda L, Beneito A, Guxens M,… & Vrijheid M. Prenatal exposure to multiple endocrine-disrupting chemicals and childhood BMI trajectories in the INMA cohort study. Environ Health Perspect. 2023 Oct;131(10):107006. doi: 10.1289/EHP11103. Epub 2023 Oct 18.  


What is known about the subject?

Infant and early childhood growth and adiposity status play a crucial role in the promotion of a healthy childhood development, and well-being in adulthood. Children with overweight or obesity are at greater risk for long-term health complications. A risk factor of concern is the exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), which can interfere with the normal endocrine function and may potentially lead to obesity. These chemicals are found in our diet and in daily products such as plastics, personal care products and pesticides, and include persistent organic pollutants (POPs), perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), polychlorinated bisphenyls (PCBs), phthalates and phenols (including parabens and bisphenol A). Prenatal exposure to endocrine disruptors is particularly of concern, since the latter may be transferred to the fetus during a sensitive period of development and could affect foetal and postnatal growth, and increase disease susceptibility during later stages of life.


What does this study add to the existing literature?

A number of studies have explored the impact of prenatal exposure to endocrine disruptors on size at birth and infant body mass index (BMI) at childhood, focusing on individual EDCs or on specific aspects of growth. However, one of the major novelties of this study is that, in addition to examining the effects of each endocrine disruptor as single exposures, researchers have also analysed exposures to chemical mixtures. This meant examining how the combination of different EDCs could affect children’s growth, which offers a more realistic representation of the way humans are exposed to EDCs. This approach showed that exposure to a mixture of EDCs is associated with a higher risk for children of belonging to a trajectory of accelerated BMI gain, with HCB, DDE and PCBs contributing the most. This is an important finding given the fact that accelerated growth during early life is linked to various health conditions during childhood and adulthood, such as obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.


What are the implications of the findings?

The study provides evidence that prenatal exposure to certain endocrine disruptors is associated with accelerated BMI trajectories throughout childhood. Accelerated growth during early life has been liked to negative long-term health consequences. These findings highlight the potential risks for health associated with the exposure to EDCs during pregnancy. Further research is needed to evaluate the effects of prenatal exposure to EDCs on health over the life course. Understanding how early exposure to EDCs affect health over the years is key to public health practice and policy.


Parisa Montazeri
PhD in Biomedicine. University Pompeu Fabra (UPF)
Researcher at Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal)
ATHLETE Project Scientific Coordinator