What Mothers Can (and Can’t) Do to Protect Unborn Babies from Toxic Chemicals

There have been many studies coming out lately that validate my entire approach to pregnancy and parenting. The latest, just announced by the Washington Toxics Coalition (WTC), shows babies are exposed to chemicals in everyday consumer products even before they’re born.

WTC tested blood and urine from pregnant women in California, Washington, and Oregon during their second trimester of pregnancy and the results showed chemicals that are found in a wide variety of consumer products.

pregnant belly

From the study:

  • 100% of study participants had bisphenol A (BPA) in their bodies, which is found in polycarbonate water bottles and food and beverage cans and has been linked to cancer, early puberty, diabetes, obesity, and reproductive problems.

  • 100% had mercury, a known neurotoxin.

  • Most had several different types of phthalates, which may have an impact on masculinity in boys. These are plasticizers and fragrance carriers found in consumer products from shower curtains to shampoo. Phthalates are linked to reproductive problems and asthma.

  • The study didn’t make any associations between a woman’s lifestyle and the levels of chemicals found in her body.

  • Each woman had at least two and as many as four “Teflon chemicals,” or perfluorinated compounds, in her blood. These are chemicals used to create stain-protection products and non-stick cookware and are linked to low birth weight, obesity, and cancer.

While I generally spend time coaching families on how to avoid these very chemicals; the best anyone can do is minimize exposure. But Erika Schreder, staff scientist for the Washington Toxics Coalition and author of the report (full disclosure: she wrote an essay for my book, The Complete Organic Pregnancy), says, “Pregnant women can’t avoid every exposure to these chemicals because they are in so many products. They can’t shop their way out of this problem. We need policies that keep toxic chemicals away from pregnant women and the most vulnerable-the developing fetus.”

She’s right. And the levels found in women who were already attempting to avoid these very chemicals backs her up.

To make those policies happen, WTC, along with Commonweal, the Toxic-Free Legacy Coalition, and members of the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families Campaign are urging Congress to reform the federal law (the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act) by doing the following:

  • Immediately initiate action to eliminate chemicals that build up in our bodies or are passed on to the next generation.

  • Reduce the use of chemicals that can cause serious health problems such as cancer and reproductive harm, or lead to learning disabilities.

  • Require manufacturers to create consumer products using only chemicals they have tested fully for safety and to provide full information on their hazards to the public.

  • Preserve the rights of the states to enact legislation that sets higher chemical safety standards than federal law….

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