A chemical commonly used in cookware could be responsible for increased birth weights for babies, Australian researchers have found.
In a surprise finding, researchers from Western Australia's Edith Cowan University (ECU) found that Perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAA), which have been used in manufacturing cookware since the 1950s, contribute to both higher and lower than average birth weights.
The presence of PFAAs Perfluorohexane sulfonate (PFHxS), Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and Perfluoroctane sulfonate (PFOS) in the blood of pregnant women has been previously associated with them giving birth to smaller babies.
However, the team from ECU noted that the PFAA chemical Perfluoroundecanoic acid (PFUnDA) is also associated with higher birth weights.
Anna Callan, the lead researcher of the study, said the findings were significant because having either a lower or higher birth weight than average had been linked to an increased chance of developing chronic diseases later in life.
"For example, higher birth weights have been linked with an increased risk of childhood obesity," Callan said in a media release on Tuesday.
"This research emphasizes the importance of us really understanding the effects that chemicals used in industrial processes have on us and our children.
"This is particularly important because many of these chemicals can persist in the environment and in our bodies for decades after their use has been stopped."
In addition to being used in cookware, PFAAs are also commonly used in the production of stain repellent, fire-fighting foam and water resistant clothing.
Callan said she was planning a further study to investigate the long-term impacts of prenatal exposure to perfluoroalkyl substances.