In the United States, Latino/Hispanic children and teens have double the risk of becoming obese compared to White youths. There is no single cause of obesity. However, known risk factors include reduced physical activity and eating more processed foods and foods high in calories. Hispanic/Latino people may also have more of a genetic risk for obesity.
In addition, we know that some chemicals in the environment increase the risk of excess weight gain. These chemicals are “Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals” (EDC). EDCs were first developed for beneficial uses such as to make safer products, such as pesticides, common household items, and personal care items (like soaps and shampoos).
Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals and excess weight gain
In the last ten years, there have been 24 studies that looked at links between early life exposure to EDCs and obesity in Latino/Hispanic youth in the United States and Latin America. Over half of these studies were based in the Salinas Valley of California and in Mexico City. Other study locations include Cruz de la Sierra in Bolivia and the Chiapas and Morelos regions of Mexico. Researchers found that the risk from exposure appears to be greater during vulnerable developmental life stages. For example, there is high risk for babies in the womb, for infants via food and formula containers, and for kids and teens around puberty from household products.
Hispanic/Latino babies, children and youth at risk
This study shows a need to monitor and regulate use of EDCs in foods, food containers, personal care products, and common household items. Pregnant women, infants, and young children are of special concern. Such efforts are especially important for Latin American countries where industrialization is increasing EDC exposure. It is also important in regions of the United States with large Hispanic/Latino populations and/or people doing farm work or other jobs with high chemical exposure, including firefighting and making textiles and paper.