May 23, 2019 | Updated: 11:35 AM EDT

Families With Higher Socioeconomic Position is Associated to Greater Exposure to Several Environmental Chemical Contaminants

May 13, 2019 11:51 AM EDT

Relationship between Socioeconomic Position and Exposure to Environmental Contaminants
(Photo : Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay)

The Barcelona Institute of Global Health (ISGlobal) carried out a new European study; Families with a higher socioeconomic position is associated to greater exposure to several environmental chemical contaminants such as various polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), mercury and arsenic, during pregnancy and childhood. The conclusion reached by ISGlobal, a center that "la Caixa" supported has described the relationship between the socioeconomic position of 1,300 pregnant women and their children of aged 6 to 12 years and exposure to 41 environmental contaminants.

Till present, there have been several studies which showed that there is a relationship between socioeconomic position - income, social status, employment, and education - and the level of exposure to several environmental risks. Most of these studies, however, have varying results, some support while others contradict the traditional hypothesis that disadvantaged groups are at highest risk.

For instance, ISGlobal had another study which showed that the socioeconomic level of pregnant women determines the environmental risk they are exposed to, but the nature of the relationship varies, according to the urban environment where they live.

As part of the HELIX Project, the recent research has been carried out using birth cohorts from six European countries, namely France, Spain, Greece, Lithuania, Norway, and the United Kingdom. For them to find man concentrations of biomarkers of the chemical contaminants, the researchers collected urine and blood samples from pregnant women and their children. Also, the mothers completed questionnaires on their education, employment, and family affluence level.

The researchers have published the results of this investigation in the international journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health and it revealed that pregnant women with a higher socioeconomic level had a higher risk of exposure to several per and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), mercury, arsenic, several phenols, and pesticides, compared to women with lower socioeconomic levels. Similarly, children from families with a higher social position had a higher risk of exposure to organochlorine compounds per - and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), mercury, arsenic, and bisphenol A.

On the other hand, in lower socioeconomic levels, a higher risk of exposure was only found in the case of cadmium during pregnancy and lead and phthalate metabolites in childhood.

The lead author of the study and a researcher with ISGlobal, Parisa Montazeri, indicated that as far as the exposure of pregnant women and children to persistent pollutants is concerned, a clear trend of higher concentrations in the cases of the higher socioeconomic level was found. Also, she pointed out that possible explanations should be sought in differences in diet, smoking, and use of consumer products including cosmetic, between families of different socioeconomic positions. Tobacco smoking is part of the higher cadmium concentrations observed in women with lower socioeconomic levels.

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