Last week we told you about the 232 toxic chemicals we found in human cord blood. This week we tell you how to reduce your exposures to toxic chemicals to keep them out of your womb. Because at EWG we don't accept toxic pregnancy as a fait accompli. Far from it. Instead, we want you to know that pregnant and pregnant-to-be women CAN reduce their exposures to toxic chemicals, thereby reducing their babies' exposures. Not that we think you should have to do this, mind you, on top of the other billion things you're doing. Quite the opposite, actually. We think Congress should step up and take this off your already full "to do" list. But since the current federal toxics law is too weak to protect you - or your baby, we suggest that you take matters into your own hands:
- Don't smoke Cigarettes contain thousands of chemicals that have been proven to cause harm, including raising the risk of low birth weight and size, reduced lung capacity and impaired brain function. Babies born to mothers who smoked during pregnancy are at higher risk of asthma, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), learning disabilities, diminished IQ and behavioral problems.
- Get your iodine Use iodized salt, especially while pregnant and nursing, and take iodine-containing vitamins. Iodine buffers against chemicals such as perchlorate that can disrupt your thyroid system and affect your baby's brain development during pregnancy and infancy.
- Eat good fats Omega-3 fatty acids can offset the toxic effects of lead and mercury. Omega-3's are plentiful in fish, eggs, nuts, oils and produce. Choose low-mercury fish such as salmon, tilapia and pollock, rather than high-mercury tuna and swordfish. Breast milk is the best source of good fats (and other benefits) for babies and protects them from toxic chemicals.
- Go organic and eat fresh foods Opt for organic fruits and veggies, or use FoodNews.org to find conventionally grown produce with the least pesticide residue. Choose milk and meat produced without added growth hormones. Limit canned food, since can linings usually contain bisphenol-A (BPA). Read EWG's Healthy Home Tip for going organic and eating fresh foods.
- Drink safer water It's important for pregnant women to drink plenty of water. Use a reverse osmosis system or carbon filter pitcher to reduce your exposure to impurities such as chlorine, perchlorate and lead. Don't drink bottled water, which costs more and isn't necessarily better. If you're out and about, use a stainless steel, glass or BPA-free plastic reusable container. Mix infant formula with fluoride-free water. Read more in EWG's Safe Drinking Water Guide.
- Choose better body care products Just because the label says "gentle" or "natural" doesn't mean a product is kid-safe. Look it up on CosmeticsDatabase.com. Read the ingredients and avoid triclosan, BHA, fragrance and oxybenzone. Read EWG's Healthy Home Tip to choose better body care products.
- Identify lead sources & avoid them Have your tap water tested for lead from pipes and avoid any home remodeling if your house was built before 1978, when lead house paint was banned. Dust from sanding or blasting old paint is a common source of exposure.
- Clean greener Household cleaners, bug killers, pet treatments and air fresheners can irritate kids' and babies' lungs - especially if they have asthma. Check out less toxic alternatives. Some ideas: vinegar in place of bleach, baking soda to scrub your tiles, hydrogen peroxide to remove stains. Use a wet mop/rag and a HEPA-filter vacuum to get rid of dust - which can contain contaminants. Leave shoes - and the pollutants they track inside -- at the door. Get EWG's Tips for Greener Home Cleaning.
- Pick plastics carefully Some plastics contain toxic chemicals, including BPA, PVC and phthalates. Don't reuse single-use containers or microwave food in plastic containers. Avoid PVC by hanging a natural-fabric shower curtain. When remodeling, go with PVC-free flooring and pipes. Read EWG's Healthy Home Tip to pick plastics carefully.
Think ahead to baby. Your due date will be here before you know it!
- Breast milk is best, but if you use formula, choose a powdered product and mix it with filtered water (without fluoride). See EWG's Guide to feeding baby safely.
- Choose glass or BPA-free plastic baby bottles.
- Use organic baby food and milk when the time comes.
- Avoid fire retardants in nursing pillows, furniture, and electronics.
- Choose fewer and safer body care products, including diaper cream, wipes and soap.
- When you outfit the nursery, choose an organic crib mattress or use a wool cover.
Download and print EWG's 10 Healthy Pregnancy Tips for your friends, share it at your mom's group, or post it on your blog. Because the womb is an important place to protect, don't you think?