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Scientists show lifestyle choices can reduce chemical exposure

Scientists have found that pregnant women in the Old Order Mennonite (OOM) community, who consume fresh unprocessed foods and use minimal cosmetics and personal care products, have significantly reduced levels of endocrine disrupting chemicals in their body compared to the normal population, in a study suggesting that healthier lifestyle choices may reduce exposure to chemicals such as bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates.

Researchers from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry analysed urine samples from ten women in mid-pregnancy, as well as examining individual behavioural choices and community lifestyle practices. They found that seven women had detectable levels of BPA and all of them had detectable levels of one or more phthalates, but that levels were significantly lower than in samples from pregnant women from the general population. They also found that women who reported being in a car within 48 hours of providing a urine sample had higher levels of diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP), which is used in the manufacture of car interior parts, and that one woman who had reported using hairspray and perfume had significantly higher levels of monoethyl phthalate (MEP).

“Despite the small sample size of this study, the results are remarkably robust and consistent,” said lead author Shanna Swan, professor of preventive medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. “They underscore the degree to which the home environment determines exposure levels to many toxic or potentially toxic chemicals. They also argue for a much greater emphasis on individual lifestyle factors in assessing variations in exposure values that obscure attempts to link health effects to particular chemical agents.”

The researchers now intend to examine a larger group of OOM women to expand on these results. The study is published online in the journal NeuroToxicology.

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