In this episode of Humans Shoot Themselves in the DNA Foot Using Weird Substances, we discover that two everyday things could be damaging people’s offspring.
First, we’ll look at two chemicals used in car manufacturing that could result in drivers passing on birth defects and/or developing cancer.
Then, we’ll look at the possibility that pregnant women using opioids could be producing long-lasting “impairments” in their kids’ brains.
Just in case you need one more reason to consider switching over to remote work, researchers from the University of California, Riverside find many commuters may be inhaling an unhealthy level of cancer-causing chemicals each time they drive back and forth to work. Consequently, these commuters may be at a higher risk of passing on birth defects or developing cancer.
Getting down to specifics, the two chemicals in question for this study are benzene and formaldehyde. Manufacturers use both of these chemicals regularly in the building of cars. Both can cause cancer at or above a certain level of exposure. This new research conducted at UC Riverside indicates that the average California commuter is breathing in too much of both chemicals during their daily commute.
While both chemicals may cause cancer, formaldehyde exposure also has a link to reproductive and developmental toxicity.
“These chemicals are very volatile, moving easily from plastics and textiles to the air that you breathe,” says David Volz, UCR professor of environmental toxicology, in a university release.
Should the public stop using cars? That may be a bit extreme, but researchers advise opening up the windows while driving as often as possible.
“At least with some air flow, you’d be diluting the concentration of these chemicals inside your car,” Reddam suggests.
As far as a more permanent solution goes, researchers would like to see both benzene and formaldehyde eliminated from car manufacturing altogether.
As of now, manufacturers use benzene to produce synthetic fibers and formaldehyde to bind plastics together.
The dangers of opioid misuse are well documented, but now a new study finds abusing such drugs while pregnant can impact a woman’s child all the way from infancy to their teenage years. Troublingly, researchers say the number of expecting mothers using opioid drugs continues to rise year-over-year.
Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine find opioid exposure in the womb induces long-lasting “impairments” in the brain’s capacity to process sensory information. These brain changes may lead to health conditions including autism, ADHD, or substance abuse issues later on.
To reach these conclusions, scientists observed a group of lab mice after exposing them to fentanyl in the womb. Those rodents showed both withdrawal symptoms and sensory processing disorders from birth all the way through at least adolescence.
“While we had evidence on the effects of fentanyl exposure in newborns, such as premature birth and low birthweight, our study provides new preliminary evidence that the effects of fentanyl last well into adolescence and beyond,” says study author Asaf Keller, PhD, Interim Chair of the Department of Anatomy & Neurobiology, in a university release. “It is a novel and important finding, but one that needs to be replicated in clinical studies.”
Drug misuse during pregnancy is a growing problem
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly seven percent of pregnant women reported using opioids while with child in 2019. Among that group, one in five admitted to misusing their prescribed opioids. Moreover, study authors speculate opioid use in general has likely grown worse over the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There’s data to back up this hypothesis; the CDC reports drug overdose deaths reached their highest recorded levels ever in 2020. The number one drug involved in those deaths? Fentanyl.
Maybe modernity was a mistake?
It’s also possible that modernity wasn’t a mistake, but that someone should have been regulating this shit.