The microbes that inhabit our bodies are influenced by what we eat, drink, breathe and absorb through our skin, and most of us are chronically exposed to natural and human-made environmental contaminants.
The microbes that inhabit our bodies are influenced by what we eat, drink, breathe and absorb through our skin, and most of us are chronically exposed to natural and human-made environmental contaminants. In a new paper, scientists from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign review the research linking dozens of environmental chemicals to changes in the gut microbiome and associated health challenges.
The review is published in the journal Toxicological Sciences.
The paper includes sections on compounds used in manufacturing consumer goods, including the bisphenols found in plastic food packaging, and phthalates, which are used in everything from vinyl flooring to plastic films. It also describes the science associated with exposure to persistent organic pollutants and heavy metals. POPs include chemicals like PCBs; perfluorochemicals, which are used in nonstick cookware and food packaging; flame retardants known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers; and pesticides and herbicides.
“More than 300 environmental contaminants or the metabolic byproducts of those contaminants have been measured in human urine, blood or other biological samples,” said Jodi Flaws, a U. of I. professor of comparative biosciences who led the analysis with Ph.D. student Karen Chiu. “Chemicals such as bisphenols, phthalates and some pesticides, persistent organic pollutants and heavy metals can alter hormone metabolism and are associated with adverse health outcomes.”
Image: U. of I. professor of comparative biosciences Jodi Flaws and her colleagues reviewed dozens of studies exploring the relationship between exposure to environmental contaminants, the gut microbiome and human and animal health. (Credit: Photo by L. Brian Stauffer)