Exposure to environmental levels of triclocarban (TCC), an antibacterial chemical common in personal care products like soaps and lotions as well as in the medical field, during pregnancy may be bad for babies in womb, suggests new research.
TCC is among the top 10 most commonly detected wastewater contaminants in concentration and frequency.
"Our results are significant because of the potential risk of exposure to TCC through contaminated water sources and in the living environment, and the potential adverse effects resulting from this exposure during development," said lead author of the study Heather Enright of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, US.
"Early life exposure to TCC has the potential to cause irreversible outcomes due to the fragile nature of organ systems and protective mechanisms in developing offspring," Enright said.
The findings published in the journal PLOS ONE showed that exposure to TCC can transfer from mother to offspring and interfere with lipid metabolism.
Lipids are naturally occurring molecules that include fats, waxes, fat-soluble vitamins, monoglycerides, diglycerides, triglycerides and others.
The main biological function of lipids is storing energy and signaling, and acting as structural components of cell membranes.
The team studied mice during gestation and lactation to see if, in fact, exposure to TCC would transfer from mother to offspring.
Researchers administered TCC laced with carbon-14 to trace how the contaminant distributed in organ systems of female mice and exposed offspring.
Using accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS), Enright and her colleagues quantified TCC concentrations in offspring and their mothers after exposure.
"We demonstrated that TCC does effectively transfer from mother to offspring, both trans-placentally and via lactation," Enright said.
"Exposure to TCC during development may pose a serious health risk to the developing embryo and fetus, as they are more sensitive to alterations in hormone levels, which may result in changes that often are irreversible," she added.
TCC-related compounds were detected in the tissues of offspring with significantly higher concentrations in the brain, heart and fat, the study said.
In addition to the transfer from mother to offspring, exposed offspring were heavier in weight than unexposed mice - demonstrating an 11 percent and 8.5 percent increase in body weight for females and males, respectively, the study said.