7 March 2012
Pregnancy and household chemicals: time to get serious, say scientists
Pregnant women and women about to conceive should receive counseling regarding the risks inherent in many common household items containing toxic chemicals, say Seattle Children's Research Institute medicos.
Removing shoes at the door, decreasing consumption of processed and canned foods, avoiding plastics with certain recycling codes and not having tick and flea collars in the house. These are just some of the recommendations that doctors should share with women, say the researchers.
Their study, in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, notes that a growing body of evidence suggests that preconception and prenatal exposure to certain environmental toxins can impact fetal development adversely and lead to potentially long-lasting health effects.
To help reproductive health providers who are not trained in environmental health, the researchers, led by Sheela Sathyanarayana, have created a guide outlining exposure risks and reduction tips.
The guide covers environmental toxins like lead, mercury, pesticides and other endocrine-disrupting chemicals such as bisphenol A (BPA), which is used in a variety of products including canned food linings and cash register receipts.
Some of the key recommendations in the guide include:
Exposure can come from eating fish and the use of skin-lightening creams. Exposure during pregnancy can lead to lower IQ, poor language and motor development.
Risk factors for exposure include recent immigration to the U.S., occupational exposure, imported cosmetics, and renovating or remodeling a home built prior to the 1970s. Lead is neurotoxic to a developing fetus. To reduce exposure, avoid jobs or hobbies that may involve lead exposure; stay away from repair, repainting, renovation and remodeling work conducted in homes built before 1978; avoid cosmetics, food additives and medicines imported from overseas; remove shoes at the door to prevent tracking in lead and other pollutants.
Exposure can come from eating some produce and from using pesticides in your home or on your pets. Exposure to pesticides in pregnancy has been shown to increase risk of intrauterine growth retardation, congenital anomalies, leukemia and poor performance on cognitive testing. To reduce exposure, do not use chemical tick and flea collars or dips; avoid application of pesticides indoors and outdoors; consider buying organic produce when possible; wash all fruits and vegetables before eating; and remove shoes at the door.
- Endocrine-disrupting chemicals
Human prenatal phthalate exposure is associated with changes in male reproductive anatomy and behavioral changes primarily in young girls. Animal studies suggest prenatal exposure to BPA is associated with obesity, reproductive abnormalities and neurodevelopmental abnormalities in offspring. To reduce exposure, decrease consumption of processed foods; increase fresh and/or frozen foods; reduce consumption of canned foods; avoid use of plastics with recycled codes 3, 4 and 7; be careful when removing old carpet because padding may contain chemicals; and use a vacuum machine fitted with a HEPA filter to get rid of dust that may contain chemicals.
"Reproductive health providers have an important role to play in counseling women on environmental health risks," concluded Dr. Sathyanarayana. "Providers can be knowledgeable about these issues and empower patients to make positive decisions to reduce exposure and to prevent adverse health impacts to both mother and fetus."
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Source: American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology