Becoming aware of your environment is the best thing you can do for the health of you and your family.
Now that you are pregnant, you will become more aware and concerned for the well-being of your developing child. If you all ready have children, it is never to late to make changes. I know that becoming aware of the pollutants or potential harmful substances in our environment can cause you to feel overwhelmed, but the good news is that there are things you can do to limit your exposure. You can choose to be informed so that you can avoid certain environmental toxins.
Just take small steps.
The chances of having a healthy baby are in your favor if you eat well, reduce your stress and get enough rest. Humans are very resilient. Do what you are comfortable with. No one can do everything 100% of the time, but you can do something most of the time. You have a choice. Take it in steps if need be so you don’t feel so overwhelmed. Starting to do a little bit is better than never starting at all. Just keep in mind that prevention of disease is key for long term health and your pocket book.
Truth be told - I'm still making baby steps and learning myself.
What the science is showing us.
Scientists are starting to really look at and test the effects of environmental chemicals and pollutants on humans. The President’s Cancer Panel reports that we have been “grossly underestimating” the contribution of environmental contamination to disease, and the policies meant to protect us have fallen far short. Nearly 20 years ago, scientists at the National Research Council called for swift action to protect young and growing bodies from pesticides. Sadly, in places that U.S. children live, learn and play, they continue to be exposed to pesticides that are known to be harmful.
Unfortunately, we all have environmental chemicals in our blood streams. Doctors once believed that the placenta protected the baby from pollutants, but this study shows differently. There was a test that was done by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) in which they tested the blood from the umbilical cords of 10 average American newborns. They tested for 413 different pollutants, pesticides to industrial chemicals. What they found was that the blood had tested positive for a maximum of 287 chemicals and the average was 200 chemicals! The placenta does not protect the baby from all environmental pollutants.
If you want to watch the presentation of the study, you can watch 10 Americans, by the Environmental Working Group.
In May of 2011, The American Academy of Pediatrics wrote,
“The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that chemical-management policy in the United States be revised to protect children and pregnant women and to better protect other populations.”
In 1976 a law was passed called the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) that allowed 62,000 chemicals to be introduced into our environment that were presumed to be safe. According to EWG, 80% of new chemicals are approved for use within 3 weeks of being introduced without any health or safety studies done before they are marketed. So what does that mean??? It means that there is no independent oversight regarding the safety of what’s going into our products!!! It is up to us to educate ourselves as to which products are the safest. EWG has a great resource list available on their website. www.ewg.org
Here is a list of environmental things that you and your family should avoid!
Phthalates and Parabens
Why? They have been found to be endocrine disruptors. What does that mean?? According to the Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units, “Phthalates are man-made chemicals used in soft, flexible plastics, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) products, and in a variety of personal care products (shampoos, lotions, etc.). These chemicals are anti-androgenic and can adversely impact androgen-sensitive tissues during specific windows of development.”
What are androgenics? Androgenics are hormones that control the development and maintenance of male characteristics. Phthalates basically act as a fake estrogen in the body, and they bind to our hormone receptor sites. Phthalates are used to carry fragrance or color. If a product says any thing about fragrance, perfume, or color, on the ingredients label, stay away from it unless it says “organic essential oils”.
In different studies phthalates have been linked with mental/ brain development issues and psychomotor development problems in infants, particularly males, at 6 months. Another study said they may change lipid metabolism in the brain, and they seem to affect the thyroid levels of pregnant women, which has an affect on the fetus. Studies have also shown that the skin absorbs phthalates and parabens, metabolizes them, and excretes them. Just know that whatever you put on your skin gets absorbed within minutes. Even Johnson and Johnson has committed to removing all harsh chemicals from adult toiletries and cosmetic products by 2015.
In addition to the things I have mentioned above, Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen in their book titled YOU Having a Baby suggest avoiding the following while pregnant:
- Avoid Methylates (found in lunch meats and hotdogs). Why? It unwinds DNA that’s not supposed to be unwound.
- Aerosolized products - (turpentine, tolune, and paint thinner) Buy eco friendly, non toxic paint instead. And make sure you thoroughly air out the place before breathing in the fumes.
- Radon - Why? It is a radioactive element that comes from the ground in some places and gets trapped in modern homes. It needs to be ventilated if found by reliable testing. There are companies that can this testing.
- Fluorotelomer – These are found in paints and coatings and in stain repellants and on materials such as carpets, paper, packing and textiles.
- Bispherol A - (found in hard plastic bottles) More on this in the plastics section.
- Bad hydrocarbons - (found in un-marinated grilled meats)
- Mercury, lead and other heavy metals - Why? They can cause neurological and motor issues.
- Radiation - Avoid x-rays. Why? Because it alters DNA of cells as they replicate. Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen even recommend avoiding excessive amounts of flying because of background radiation levels at high altitudes. Avoid the body scanners at the airport to. It would be better for you and your baby to get the old fashioned pat down. I do, even though I'm not pregnant.
- Avoid cleaning the kitty litter box - Why? Toxoplasma gondii is a parasite found in dirty cat litter boxes and other areas where cat feces can be found. Toxoplasmosis can cause hearing loss, mental retardation, and blindness.
Reduce exposure to Pesticides, Insecticides, and Herbicides. Buy organic.
This subject is NOT to scare you into not eating fruits and vegetables, but rather to make you aware and help you make smarter choices. Bottom line, eat organic fruits and vegetables. Did you know that you can lower your pesticide exposure by 90% by avoiding the top 12 contaminated fruits and vegetables, identified by the EWG.
Studies have linked pesticide exposures with harm to the structure and functioning of the brain and nervous system. Neurotoxins in pesticides cause learning and behavioral problems in infants and children. Pesticide exposure contributes to a number of increasingly common health outcomes for children, including cancer from carcinogens, birth defects, organ damage, and early puberty from endocrine disruptors. Emerging science suggests that pesticides may be important contributors to the current epidemic of childhood asthma, obesity and diabetes. Extremely low levels of pesticide exposure can cause significant health harm, particularly during pregnancy and early childhood, where there has been long term exposure.
A child's blood-brain barrier is not completely formed until the age of 10! Which means the brain doesn't have much protection from environmental pollutants. And that is why we need to choose wisely!
For more information on how can you reduce your exposure to pesticides and herbicides, check out my blog What Every Parent Should Know About Pesticides and Their Children.
Why?? Waxes are used to seal the moisture into the produce but it can also lock in the pesticides. The FDA has approved six types of wax that can be used on produce. These include shellac, paraffin, palm oil derivatives, and synthetic resins. These are the same items used in furniture, floor, and car waxes. Most produce from farmers market do not contain waxes. A good test is to smell your produce. Does it smell like the fruit?
Avoid Plastics and Use Glass Whenever Possible!!
I know it's difficult not to use plastics but try to avoid them and if you are using them; AVOID the following:
- PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate): AVOID (#1). Common Uses: soda bottles, water bottles, cooking oil bottles.
Concerns: Can leach antimony and phthalates.
Healthier choice : Opt for glass or stainless steel water bottles. Don't drink soda. Buy cooking oil in glass bottles only.
- PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride, aka Vinyl) (#3) : AVOID. Common Uses: condiment bottles, cling wrap, teething rings, toys, shower curtains.
Concerns: Can leach lead and phthalates among other things. Can also off-gas toxic chemicals.
Healthier choice: Opt for clear silicone pacifiers and wooden toys. Healthy teething idea: dip corner of wash cloth in apple juice and freeze it - the cold is soothing.
- PS (Polystyrene, aka Styrofoam) (#6) : AVOID. Common Uses: meat trays, foam food containers & cups.
Concerns: Can leach carcinogenic styrene and estrogenic alkylphenols.
Healthier choice: Store food is glass containers or use stainless steal lunch boxes.
This is a catch-all category which includes:
- PC (Polycarbonate) (#7): AVOID. It can leach Bisphenol-A (BPA). It also includes ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene), SAN (Styrene Acrylonitrile), Acrylic, and Polyamide. In spite of the possibility of some leaching, these plastics maybe a safer option because they are typically very durable and resistant to high heat, resulting in less leaching. But leaching still occurs. Their drawbacks are that they are not typically recyclable and some need additional safety research. New plant based, biodegradable plastics like PLA (Polylactic Acid) also fall into the #7 category.
What about BPA free products? Bisphenol A (BPA), a ubiquitous endocrine disruptor. It is present in many household products, the liner of canned foods and plastics. It has been linked to obesity, cancer, and, most relevant here, childhood neurological disorders such as anxiety and hyperactivity. Bisphenol S, a replacement used in BPA-free products, equally affects neurodevelopment. These findings suggest that BPA-free products are not necessarily safe.
Here is what you need to understand about plastics. Plastics break down over time, allowing BPA to leach out into whatever is in the cup, such as your baby's milk. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, putting polycarbonate cups in the microwave, washing them in the dishwasher or putting hot drinks or foods into them can all cause the plastic to weaken more rapidly and break down, releasing BPA for example. Supposedly the least toxic plastics are (#2 HDPE, #4 LDPE, and #5 PP) BUT REMEMBER...
GLASS IS BEST!! Dump the plastics! And give your baby/child wooden toys or toys made from healthy fibers (organic cotton, hemp or wool) plush toys.
Source: Healthy Child Healthy World by Christopher Gavigan
I know I have mentioned this before but it is super important!
Avoid....GMO's (Genetically Modified Organisms).
Why? They are foods that have been genetically altered by scientists to grow faster and to resist plant diseases. GMO’s are created by taking the DNA from one species and splicing it into another species’ DNA. Over 80% of packaged foods contain GMO’s. The average person eats 198 lbs. of GMO foods a year. There are nine genetically modified food crops: soy, corn, cotton (used for cottonseed oil), canola, sugar beets (used in most U.S. sugar), Hawaiian and Chinese papaya, some zucchini, yellow crook neck squash, and alfalfa (used for hay). To make it easier to avoid GMO’s, the Institute for Responsible Technology (IRT) offers a list of thousands of products that have been verified as non-GMO at: www.NonGMOShoppingGuide.com or via a free iPhone app, ShopNoGMO.
Gylophosate found in pregnant moms.
What is really alarming is that the first birth cohort study of its kind found that > 90% of pregnant women had detectable glyphosate levels and that these levels correlated significantly with shortened pregnancy lengths. Parvez said "We found higher urine glyphosate levels in women who lived in rural areas, and in those who consumed more caffeinated beverages,". YIKES!
Unfortunately, the jury is still out as to whether GMO’s are harmful to humans even though there have been several studies showing how GMO’s seriously affect the health of test animals. Serious effects of GMO’s in animals range from infertility to cancerous tumors. If you want to take a precautionary approach, remember, “When in doubt - leave it out!” Buy organic corn, soy, canola, sugar beets, and yellow crook neck squash. And also consider buying organic cotton clothing and bedding for your little one.
THE BEST THING YOU CAN DO FOR THE HEALTH OF YOU AND YOUR BABY IS TO READ LABELS AND EAT FRESH, ORGANIC FOODS!!!
One of Dr. Sears’ favorite lines is… “When in Doubt, Leave It Out!!”
A HEALTHY CHILD IS WORTH IT!
Resource List Can Be Found HERE.
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