Environmental connections to public health >>
Chemical Industry to Pregnant Women: Don’t Worry your Pretty Little Heads
I had two challenging pregnancies filled with uncertainty and stress. Thankfully, the end result was two healthy kids. One thing was certain, though – I could handle the truth. I wanted all the facts and I wanted to make my own decisions about what to eat, when to exercise, when to sleep. When it comes to our health and the health of our kids, most of the parents I know will choose the advice and opinions of doctors over the chemical industry’s false reassurance every time.
That’s why today’s joint statement from the prestigious American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine is so important. They flatly refute the industry’s reassuring claims, declaring that “toxic chemicals in our environment harm our ability to reproduce, negatively affect pregnancies and are associated with numerous long-term health problems.”
In a fact sheet entitled “Environmental Chemicals: Stay Safe During Pregnancy,” the physicians’ organizations added, “Toxic chemicals have long-lasting reproductive health effects.” They noted that “prenatal exposure to certain chemicals is associated with stillbirth, miscarriage, birth defects, childhood cancers and impaired brain development in children.”
This statement is of critical importance to anyone of childbearing age and underscores why we must reform our broken federal toxics law.
In two biomonitoring studies, EWG has found nearly 300 toxic industrial chemicals in newborn babies, including Bisphenol A (BPA), mercury, fire retardants, non-stick or “Teflon-like” chemicals, and a wide range of other chemicals used in consumer products. These exposures happened in the womb, before the newborns had breathed the air, drunk a sip of water or eaten a bite of food. BPA has been associated with a range of serious health problems, including cancer, diabetes, infertility and behavioral changes in children. Common chemical fire retardants can disrupt estrogen signaling and lead to cancer. Too much mercury from seafood can lower children’s IQ measurements. Teflon chemicals, once widely used in a number of consumer goods, have been linked to lower baby birth weights, thyroid problems and cancer.
Perhaps even more shocking is the reaction of the chemical industry to today’s announcement. According to reporter Lauran Neergaard of the Associated Press:
The industry's American Chemistry Council said current environmental regulations offer enough consumer protection, and that the new [ACOG] report will create "confusion and alarm among expectant mothers" and distract them from proven steps for a healthy pregnancy. (Emphasis added).
This telling quote shows how the chemical manufacturers view consumers, especially pregnant women. So when should parents – especially pregnant women – get the full facts from their doctors? The industry seems to be saying that the truth will be a distraction. In fact, the chemical makers might as well have said, “You can’t handle the truth if you’re pregnant, because if doctors tell you what chemicals you are exposed to and the risks associated with them, you might get stressed out.”
As if being pregnant isn’t full of unknowns and concerns. It’s when the chemical industry makes ridiculous statements like this one that consumers lose confidence.
The chemical companies are trying to tell pregnant women that even though their products have contaminated our bodies and the bodies of our developing babies, we shouldn’t worry. They say they’re pretty sure that low doses of toxic chemicals don’t matter, even though these toxic chemicals often cross the placenta and reach the unborn fetus.
Obstetricians, pediatricians, reproductive health professionals and more and more medical experts disagree with the industry. Each day scientific reports are published showing that low doses of toxic chemicals can harm us.
We at EWG welcome the call for real toxics reform coming from these medical professionals. The current toxics reform proposal before Congress, called the Chemical Safety Improvement Act, has the support of 85 chemical trade associations, but not a single environmental organization supports it as currently drafted. One of the key reasons EWG doesn’t support the proposal is that it will not adequately protect children from toxic chemical exposures.
Today’s announcement by the obstetricians and reproductive specialists underscores why we need real reform of our toxics law, and we must make sure that chemicals that go on the market come with “a reasonable certainty” that they will cause no harm. If toxic chemicals in consumer products are safe for vulnerable populations like kids, they will be safe for all of us. And that’s the truth.