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A new study published today by the EU-funded ATHLETE project, where HEAL is a partner, found that prenatal exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), which interfere with the normal functioning of the hormonal system, can result in poorer metabolic health in children, which in turn can have lifelong negative effects on health. Metabolic syndrome is a combination of conditions that can increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. 

The study alarmingly found EDCs, such as mixtures of metals, polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), pesticides and flame retardant, present during pregnancy increased the risk of children developing metabolic syndrome. This exposure can have lifelong impacts, which can manifest as obesity, hypertension, insulin resistance and high cholesterol, all contributing factors to cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.

The study found girls were more at risk from PFAS and polychlorinated biphenyls, and boys were more impacted upon exposure to parabens. The research led by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), involved 1,134 mothers and their children from Spain, France, Greece, Lithuania, Norway and the United Kingdom. Initially, samples were collected during pregnancy or from the umbilical cord. The study later followed up on the children between 6-11 years old.

HEAL Executive Director Génon K. Jensen calls for action in the next EU legislature to restrict EDCs: “It is urgent that EU decision makers ensure that EDCs, such as PFAS, are banned in the EU. The full implementation of the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability must be a priority of the new EU Commission to protect people’s health against harmful chemicals.



EDCs are synthetic chemicals that interfere with the natural hormones in our bodies. They can be found everywhere, including in consumer products, fruits and vegetables, food packaging, and even air and water.  The ATHLETE project aims to assess the combined impact of various ECDs on metabolic syndrome.

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