Originally published in Environmental Working Group's Enviroblog.
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:
1. 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. (See more tips for purifying air in your home.)
2. 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.
3. 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. (See tips for choosing safe pregnancy fish.)
4. 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 tips for going organic and eating fresh foods. Also see the dirty dozen foods with the highest pesticide residue.
5. 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 or safer.
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.
6. 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 tips for choosing better body care products.
7. 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. (See The Daily Green's lead poisoning prevention diet for foods that help fortify the body against damage from lead.)
8. Clean greener
Household cleaners, bug killers, pet flea and tick 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.
9. 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 tips for picking plastics.
10. Think ahead to baby.
Your due date will be here before you know it! Consider these tips for planning ahead:
Enter your city or zip code to get your local temperature and air quality and find local green food and recycling resources near you.