Mom-to-Be’s Cosmetics Chemicals

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When pregnant women use cosmetics containing parabens, their children may have a greater likelihood of becoming overweight, a new study suggests.

Parabens are chemicals that have long been used as a preservative in cosmetics and body care products. A number of studies have suggested that parabens mimic estrogens in the body and may disrupt the normal function of hormones.

In the new study, researchers found detectable parabens in the urine of pregnant women who used paraben-containing “leave-on” products every day — makeup, body lotion or facial moisturizers.

The higher those urinary paraben levels, the more likely it was that a woman’s child would be overweight by age 8.

A compound called butylparaben stood out: Kids were twice as likely to be overweight when their mothers’ prenatal levels of butylparaben were in the top one-third, compared to the bottom third. Girls, it seemed, were more affected than boys.

The findings do not prove that parabens are to blame, said researcher Irina Lehmann of the Berlin Institute of Health and Charite at Berlin University Hospital in Germany.

Many factors, she said, contribute to excessive weight gain — including lack of exercise and too many calories.

But this is not the first study to link prenatal exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals and kids’ odds of being overweight, said Eva Tanner, a researcher at Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine in New York City who reviewed the findings.

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