Who would think that our common cooking utensils could affect our children and unborn children but according to a medical study in the American Journal of Epidemiology this seems to be the case. Perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) are man-made chemicals that are used by manufacturers for a variety of products including water, fire and grease resistant clothes, oil and nonstick pans.  In the late 1990’s, the Environmental Protection Agency received information indicating that PFCs) were widespread in the blood of the general population and presented concerns for potential toxic effects on humans. Most people have these compounds in their bodies that are slow to breakdown and may persist for years in our environment.

A recent study in Denmark found that girls exposed to PFCs in the womb were more likely to be overweight at age 20, said study researcher Michele Marcus, a professor of epidemiology at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health. All of the mothers in the study had some PFCs in their blood. Girls born to mothers with the highest levels weighed about 5 ounces less on average at birth than girls born to mothers with the lowest levels. By age 20 months, girls born to mothers with the highest blood levels of PCFs weighed 1.3 pounds more, on average, than girls born to mothers with the lowest levels. “Cardboard food packaging is often coated with PFCs to prevent the food from sticking to the cardboard,” Marcus said. This type of packaging can be seen in microwave popcorn packaging.


In another medical study in animals, it is suggested PFCs may lower the body’s immune response that is its ability to fight infections.  In the study, children who had higher concentrations of PFCs had lower immune responses to diphtheria and tetanus vaccinations. An insufficient immune response to a vaccination can mean a child is actually vulnerable to catching a disease even though they’ve been vaccinated against it.

According to Marcus, here’s what pregnant moms (and all people for that matter) do:

  • Avoid using nonstick cookware (use stainless steel or iron pots instead)
  • Avoid using plastic to microwave foods
  • Avoid heating microwave food in its original packaging

Remember, a healthy pregnancy doesn’t just happen. It takes a smart mother who knows what to do.