How to Stay Away from Hidden Toxins During Pregnancy

As you prepare for your little one’s arrival, it’s crucial to know how to stay away from hidden toxins during pregnancy, making your immediate surroundings healthier than ever. Discover ways to create a safer space for both you and your baby.

As soon as you discover you’re pregnant, your desire to maintain optimal health for yourself and your child intensifies. This includes consuming a healthy diet, exercising wisely, and ensuring the safety of your surroundings. Protecting yourself and your unborn child from toxins contained in the air you breathe, the food you eat, the water you drink, and the home goods you use is the most difficult aspect.

Although there is not enough space to mention every potential hazard (nor should you be overly concerned about them all), here are the most significant ones to watch out for at home, at work, and in the great outdoors.

How to Breathe Properly

While there is little you can do about the environmental pollutants in the air we breathe, there is something you can do.

Airborne Toxins at Home

According to Ted Schettler, M.D., science director of the Science and Environmental Health Network, indoor pollutants are frequently more dangerous than outdoor pollutants. Cooking, cleaning, and some hobbies can all release dangerous chemicals.

A study published in the Journal of Exposure Analysis and Environmental Epidemiology finds that lead, pesticides, and other toxins are commonly discovered in household dust. In addition, cleaning recirculates pollutants, creating a “personal cloud” of exposure that exceeds normal indoor air concentrations.

“By using home sprays [such as hairspray, deodorants, and aerosol cleaners], you create a cloud of synthetic chemicals and noxious solvents around you,” explains Schettler. Not only does the existence of harmful compounds matter, but also their concentration and length of exposure. However, if you’ve been using these products at typical levels, you generally do not need to be concerned.

Nonetheless, a persistent yearning for a pleasant-smelling environment can be problematic. A recent assessment of more than 10,000 mothers and their children in the United Kingdom found that daily use of air fresheners (including sticks, sprays, and aerosols) was associated with a 32 percent increase in newborn diarrhea compared to homes where air fresheners were used once a week or less. In addition, mothers living in houses with air fresheners reported 10 percent higher headaches.

Sadly, using scented candles manufactured from paraffin wax to refresh a place can also be harmful. When fragrance oils are added to paraffin candles, more soot is produced, and carcinogens such as benzene and toluene are released. If you rely on candles to relieve stress, consider soy candles, which tend to burn without producing toxic chemicals and are widely available online. Instead, rather than candles, consider a container of fragrant, fresh flowers.

Tobacco smoke is one of the most dangerous toxins for both you and your unborn child, regardless of who smokes. In a study of nonsmoking women, babies have higher amounts of cotinine (a substance produced in the body when exposed to nicotine) than their mothers. Exposure to secondhand smoke during pregnancy is associated with lower birth weight and an increased risk of cancer for both the mother and the unborn child. Do not smoke (during pregnancy and after giving birth), and avoid settings where others are smoking. Do not permit smoking in your home or vehicle.

Airborne Toxins at Work

In many cases, workplace pollutants are comparable to those at home, unless you work in an industrial setting, near a construction site, or in a position that needs frequent exposure to dangerous chemicals.

Are you worried about what might be present? Request to study your company’s Material Safety Data Sheets, which are mandated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of the United States Department of Labor. Afterward, provide the facts to your doctor.

Pollutants in the Outdoor Air

Instead of worrying about every possible exposure that may or may not impact your child, focus on avoiding the following confirmed air toxins:

  • Tobacco smoke
  • Paint fumes
  • Kerosene heaters
  • Pesticides
  • Solvents
  • Car exhaust
  • Improperly maintained stoves.

How to Clean Healthily

Toxins in Common Home Items

The majority of expectant parents desire a sparkling home, but might the same chemicals that give common household cleaners their effectiveness also be harmful?

There are no regulatory standards to test for or warn consumers about long-term health consequences or fetal damage associated with the use of household cleaners; thus there is no comprehensive list of chemicals that pregnant women should avoid. Nevertheless, according to a new study from the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, babies born to mothers who routinely used chemical-based cleaners during pregnancy are more than twice as likely to develop respiratory difficulties. But, according to Brad Imler, Ph.D., president of the American Pregnancy Association, “your exposure is likely to be limited, and the probability of consequences is minimal.”

Dr. Tom Natan, head of research for the National Environmental Trust, concurs.

“While we do not know enough about these products, the majority are probably safe when used as indicated, in restricted quantities, and only when required,” he says. Several exposures are the primary worry. Natan believes that soap, hot water, and elbow grease are grossly undervalued and argues, “You don’t always know where the dangers are, and you’re possibly exposed more often than you think during the day.” “You don’t need to kill bacteria; you can simply scrape and use hot water to eliminate them from surfaces,” he explains.

Numerous “green” household cleaners are on the market, but not all are safe. As manufacturers are not required to declare every ingredient, you cannot be certain of their composition. In the honor system, true green companies claim to list all contents on product labels, and some, such as Earth Friendly Products, list harmful compounds often present in household products that you won’t find in their products on their websites. Call the toll-free number indicated on the product’s packaging or visit the company’s website for further information.

When using strong chemicals, use them sparingly in well-ventilated places and according to the directions provided by the manufacturer. Even better, have somebody else do the nasty labor.

How to Consume Healthy Drinks

Contaminants in Tap Water

Doctors regularly emphasize the significance of consuming sufficient fluids during pregnancy. Concerns about lead, mercury, and other potential toxins in your water may cause you to hesitate before turning on the faucet.

Particularly alarming is the fact that lead can induce preterm birth, low birth weight, and irreversible damage to the developing nervous system of an infant. Mark Woodin, Sc.D., professor of environmental health in the civil and environmental engineering department at Tufts School of Medicine in Boston, states, “Lead is one of the most hazardous metals to children, and it’s more prevalent than we realize.”

In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that almost 900,000 children in the United States between the ages of 1 and 5 still have elevated blood lead levels. And while water is rarely the primary cause of lead poisoning, it can be a major contributor.

On average, municipal water systems are expected to ensure that tap water contains no more than 15 micrograms of lead per liter. Woodin believes that despite this, an immense proportion of water in this country is not tested. “Piping systems in major cities such as Boston, Los Angeles, and New York are a serious concern, and although they are frequently checked, you have no idea what’s going out of your faucet,” he says.

Contact the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 800-426-4791 or conduct the test yourself to have your water tested for a fee ranging from $15 to hundreds of dollars. A Watersafe Drinking Water Testing Kit can be purchased for $17. According to the EPA, you can also reduce your exposure to hazardous chemicals by pouring cold water down the drain for 30 to 60 seconds before drinking it and by drinking and cooking with cold water (hot water tends to leach more lead).

Invest in a high-quality water filter, if possible. Woodin states that the filter will remove lead, chlorine, mercury, and other pollutants. Even if there are no issues with your tap water, filtered water tastes better, which may encourage you to consume more. Visit NSF International, a nonprofit organization that analyzes and certifies home water-treatment devices, or contact the Water Quality Association for a list of water filters capable of removing lead.

How to Diet Correctly

Toxins Found in Food

According to some research, organic foods (those grown without pesticides and antibiotics) are not nutritionally better than conventionally produced ones. A study conducted by the University of California, Davis, discovered that organic berries and corn contained 60 percent more antioxidants than their conventional counterparts.

Regardless, eating organic at least occasionally is an excellent strategy to reduce pesticide absorption.

How to Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle

Chemicals in Plastic

You may have heard about the debate around the chemicals found in certain kitchen storage containers, baby bottles, and baby toys. The government assures us that these goods are safe for pregnant women and infants. However, worried scientists and environmental groups disagree, noting years of alarming laboratory animal research outcomes.

Tom Natan, Ph.D., research director for the National Environmental Trust, explains, “We cannot tell from animal studies exactly how exposure at different times during pregnancy affects a developing human fetus. However, if the effects observed in animal studies also occur in humans, these chemicals may impact health at much lower exposure levels than previously believed.” “We obviously do not want to imply that every plastic bottle is dangerous, but it makes sense to take precautions,” he adds. Natan suggests making a few basic adjustments to your daily routine until specialists resolve the potential issues. These are some safety tips when utilizing plastics:

Examine products for the Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI) identifying code (a number inside a triangle with chasing arrows). Select polyethylene (#2 or #4) or polypropylene (#5) baby bottles. For information on products without these numbers, contact the manufacturer’s toll-free number or visit the manufacturer’s website.

Experts recommend discarding clear, hard plastic bottles that are scratched or worn. Avent Via Nurser Kit, Evenflo Classic Glass Nurser bottles, and Playtex Original Nurser bottles are acceptable alternatives (these brands are available at mass retailers, including Babies “R” Us and Target). For additional information on plastics and baby bottles, please contact the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

Seek for furniture and toys made without polyvinyl chloride (PVC) #3. These products may contain plasticizers known as di-isononyl phthalates (DINP), which have been linked to birth abnormalities, cancer, and organ damage in mice. If it smells like a fresh shower curtain, it is most likely made of PVC. Gerber, Little Tikes, and The Natural Baby Company are among the manufacturers of phthalate-free toys.

Use only glass or microwave-safe plastic containers, such as Tupperware and Rubbermaid, for microwaving food. Natan instructs, “Microwave the formula in a glass measuring cup, and then pour it into the plastic container after it has cooled.” Modern plastic wraps like Glad Cling Wrap, Saran Wrap, and Ziploc Storage Bags are regarded as safe. However Natan suggests using glass food covers when microwaving. “The issue is not chemicals pouring into the food, but rather plastic melting into it at high temperatures,” he says.

Contaminants in the Nursery

Although beginning a remodeling job before your child’s birth may seem like a smart idea, it involves a wide variety of construction supplies, including adhesives, paints, and chemical solvents. Dr. Ted Schettler, M.D., M.P.H., science director of the Science and Environmental Health Network, explains, “Suddenly, your home becomes a construction site with contamination levels that can be hazardous.” The following are precautions you can take:

Consider a primer for paint. Dr. Robert Geller, a medical toxicologist and associate professor of pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, states, “Oil-based paints provide a potential danger of exposure to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) while the paint dries.” The application of latex paint in a poorly ventilated space offers little hazard, notwithstanding its low toxicity. Open the windows or run a fan and take frequent pauses if you’re doing the painting; if you’re using oil-based paint, don a mask advised by the manufacturer to guard against paint fumes. Choose a non-toxic, non-VOC- or low-VOC-containing paint if you’re performing substantial painting, or ask someone else to paint the nursery for you and leave the house while the paint dries and the fumes dissipate.

Most major paint manufacturers provide water-based paints with low or no VOC levels. Several companies produce milk paints composed of the milk protein casein, lime, and mineral colors found in nature (two to try: The Old Fashioned Milk Paint Co. and The Real Milk Paint Co.). The American Pregnancy Association advises painters to use watercolors, acrylic, and tempera paintings instead of oil paints, and to avoid latex paints containing solvents such as ethers, ethylene glycol, and biocides.

If your home was constructed prior to 1978, the walls might still have paint containing lead. Before removing old paint, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency suggests contacting a qualified lead abatement professional, or a household member can test for lead dust using a $30 test kit available from the National Safety Council. If you are pregnant, you should leave the house while someone else peels, strips, and paints, and you should not return until the room has been adequately aired.

Get naturally floored. The carpet fibers, backing material, adhesives, dyes, and flame retardants of a brand-new carpet may emit toxic compounds. If you are purchasing new carpeting, request that the rolls be aired out for 24 hours prior to installation. Open the windows for ventilation, and if feasible, leave the room until the air quality improves (48 to 72 hours after installation). Choose carpets with the new Green Label Plus emblem, which distinguishes low VOC-emitting products. Contemplate wool, jute, sisal carpeting, natural linoleum, tile, hardwood, or cork flooring.

Choose your furniture with care. If family treasures, like as old rocking chairs or cribs, were painted with lead-based paint, they may not meet contemporary safety regulations. But, according to Geller, furniture created specifically for babies after the 1970s should not offer a hazardous risk even if a youngster nibbles on it. Unfinished plywood or particleboard that is newly installed might emit formaldehyde vapors; thus, cover the exposed wood with a low- or no-VOC finish or sealer, such as AFM Naturals Oil Wax Finish or Safecoat DuraStain.

Establish a PBDE (polybrominated diphenyl ethers)-free zone. Numerous recent animal studies reveal that a common flame retardant (deca-PBDE) used in carpets and upholstery can affect the central nervous system and brain development of infants. PBDEs can penetrate the placenta, enter breast milk, and be absorbed by the vaporized vapors of household goods. The effects depend on the duration and quantity of exposure.

Consider purchasing an organic baby mattress and bedding to reduce the number of toxins in your home. Numerous businesses now sell lovely organic products devoid of formaldehyde, dioxins, flame retardants, pesticides, and synthetic petrochemicals. Eliminating each potential contaminant is a modest step toward improved health.

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