Posted: 25 Aug 2014 08:00 AM PDT
Chemicals infiltrate our food supply, home, and environment, and it's virtually impossible for any living thing to escape exposure. Pregnancy only increases the importance of toxin avoidance, particularly since the developing fetus is highly susceptible to the effects of many common chemicals. A fetus could develop abnormally if exposed to high levels of everyday toxins, and some chemicals have been shown to result in teratogenic injury, or birth defects.
5 Common Chemicals and Infant Health
Today's world presents a greater risk to babies than any time in history. Harmful chemicals are rampant and are continuing to grow, despite the concerns voiced by many independent scientists. The organic food movement is tackling this pertinent issue, and it's making great strides in conservation of the environmental landscape. Still, pregnant women are advised to avoid toxic chemicals as much as possible, even if they adhere to an organic lifestyle. To make it easier, here is a list of five chemicals that are risky for pregnant women and how to avoid them.
Phthalates are a class of substances used to increase plasticity, durability, transparency, and longevity of an array of commercial and industrial products. They’re found in building supplies, personal care products, medical devices, detergents and surfactants, food packaging, children’s toys, pharmaceuticals, paint, inks, and cosmetics. With a list like this, its no wonder why so many people are having a difficult time reducing their exposure.
Known as hormone disruptors, pregnant women are at a higher risk for experiencing ill effects from phthalates.   Considering that a pregnant woman's hormones are constantly fluctuating, adding an endocrine disruptor to the mix probably isn't helpful for creating a natural balance. Some studies have implicated phthalates as a potential cause of breast cancer.  In fetuses, phthalates may shorten the distance between the anus and genitals, an issue sometimes resulting in sterility.  Also, miscarriages have correlated with high levels of phthalates in expectant mothers. 
Phthalates can contaminate food or beverages if these items are stored in phthalate-containing plastics. Water bottles are a common source of these chemicals. Phthalates can also be found in cars and homes, and breathing in these chemicals is another way through which they may enter the body. Avoiding plastic containers, tin cans, and synthetic fragrances can help reduce exposure to this common chemical. Also, choose phthalate-free baby toys, bottles, pacifiers, and other products to keep your child's phthalate burden low.
Modern agriculture strips the soil of vital nutrients, introduces genetically-modified organisms into the environment, and uses numerous toxic pesticides to combat destructive insects. Pesticide-resistant insects and glyphosate-tolerant weeds are becoming the norm thanks to the overuse of pesticides, and the only solution agribusiness advises is to use more pesticides. This "solution" is like fighting fire with fire, which only continues to create more fire.
Today, we are living in a world that seems to be swimming in pesticide poisons. The fact that their purpose is to kill should clarify their danger to humans and fetuses in the womb. Damage that occurs to an insect also happens in our bodies, but to a lesser degree. Over time, however, it can result in untold health conditions, and the risk is even worse in a developing child.  Studies have shown that some pesticides induce neurological harms in children and birth defects.  Pesticides have been found in maternal blood, umbilical cord blood, and breast milk.  How creepy is this?
Pesticides have been associated with:
The best way for most pregnant women to avoid pesticides is by eating only organic foods. While it won't protect them from pesticides that might be lingering in the air, eating organic will protect anyone from pesticides from the number one source: the diet. Choosing organic personal care products, like shampoo or face soap, may also be helpful for significantly reducing exposure.
Perhaps one of the most insidious chemicals, triclosan is often exposed to the body via antibacterial soap.  Despite its ability to kill germs, the truth is that triclosan is one of the most dangerous chemicals known to man. It’s been associated with infertility in both genders. Maternal exposure to triclosan has also been shown to impair thyroid function in developing babies.   This single fact should be of great concern to expectant mothers because the thyroid regulates energy production in every cell of the body. A defective thyroid leads to a life lacking in energy. It should come as no surprise that triclosan is also associated with failure to thrive in newborns.
The negative health consequences associated with triclosan have become so apparent in recent years that Minnesota recently banned its use in state-produced soaps.  Like so many other chemicals, triclosan can be difficult to avoid. Since the primary use of triclosan is as a disinfectant, one of the simplest and best ways to avoid the compound is by ceasing the use of antibacterial hand gels, soaps, and similar products. Though far from complete, a good listing of products to avoid is provided by the Environmental Working Group. 
Commonly referred to as BPA, bisphenol A is an estrogen disruptor used in the production of plastics, as a lining for tin cans, and also provides a glossy feel and appearance to receipts. High levels of BPA in an expectant mother's blood has been tied to low infant birth weight.  BPA has also been shown to result in lower infant survival rates. Even low doses have been associated with defects in brain function. 
BPA is frequently found together with phthalates; therefore, the best way to avoid BPA is to follow the same advice. In general, try to avoid plastics as much as possible, say no to receipts if unneeded (electronic receipts are ideal), and only choose food cans that are BPA free.
Aluminum is pervasive these days. Whether it's food packaging, a commonly-used personal care product, or a cooking utensil, many people are exposed to aluminum on a daily basis.  This metal has been linked to behavioral changes in rats, possibly translating to behavioral disorders in humans.  Independent research is showing that aluminum may have neurodegenerative properties, possibly influencing an individual's risk for developing cognitive disorders, including Alzheimer's disease, later on in life. 
Like other chemicals, aluminum is ubiquitous. Vaccines are one exposure route through which babies are exposed to this metal. Pregnant women who receive aluminum-containing vaccines also expose their unborn baby to aluminum. Babies and developing fetuses, because of their small body weight, have a greater ability to uptake certain compounds. This makes it imperative that mothers find ways of reducing their exposure at all costs.
Avoiding conventional antiperspirant may be a viable way for expectant mothers to reduce their infant's exposure. The active ingredient in most deodorant, unless labeled otherwise, is aluminum. Baking soda is perhaps the most inexpensive–not to mention the most effective–natural aluminum-free deodorant. Most prepared foods include some level aluminum, so it’s important to avoid them when possible. This recommendation is also applied to organic processed food.
The Bottom Line
There are many effects of chemical toxicity, and all effects vary from one individual to the next. Illnesses that were once thought to be associated with adults are now becoming routine in children. Diabetes, asthma, allergies, and neurological problems affect a large number of children. Obviously, much of that harm can be diminished simply by being aware of the risks associated with common chemicals and how to avoid them before, during, and even after pregnancy.
-Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, ND, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM
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