There have been many studies coming out lately that validate my entire approach to pregnancy and parenting. The latest, just announced by the Washington Toxics Coalition (WTC), shows babies are exposed to chemicals in everyday consumer products even before they're born.
WTC tested blood and urine from pregnant women in California, Washington, and Oregon during their second trimester of pregnancy and the results showed chemicals that are found in a wide variety of consumer products.
From the study:
100% of study participants had bisphenol A (BPA) in their bodies, which is found in polycarbonate water bottles and food and beverage cans and has been linked to cancer, early puberty, diabetes, obesity, and reproductive problems.
100% had mercury, a known neurotoxin.
Most had several different types of phthalates, which may have an impact on masculinity in boys. These are plasticizers and fragrance carriers found in consumer products from shower curtains to shampoo. Phthalates are linked to reproductive problems and asthma.
The study didn't make any associations between a woman's lifestyle and the levels of chemicals found in her body.
Each woman had at least two and as many as four "Teflon chemicals," or perfluorinated compounds, in her blood. These are chemicals used to create stain-protection products and non-stick cookware and are linked to low birth weight, obesity, and cancer.
While I generally spend time coaching families on how to avoid these very chemicals; the best anyone can do is minimize exposure. But Erika Schreder, staff scientist for the Washington Toxics Coalition and author of the report (full disclosure: she wrote an essay for my book, The Complete Organic Pregnancy), says, "Pregnant women can't avoid every exposure to these chemicals because they are in so many products. They can't shop their way out of this problem. We need policies that keep toxic chemicals away from pregnant women and the most vulnerable-the developing fetus."
She's right. And the levels found in women who were already attempting to avoid these very chemicals backs her up.
To make those policies happen, WTC, along with Commonweal, the Toxic-Free Legacy Coalition, and members of the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families Campaign are urging Congress to reform the federal law (the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act) by doing the following:
Immediately initiate action to eliminate chemicals that build up in our bodies or are passed on to the next generation.
Reduce the use of chemicals that can cause serious health problems such as cancer and reproductive harm, or lead to learning disabilities.
Require manufacturers to create consumer products using only chemicals they have tested fully for safety and to provide full information on their hazards to the public.
Preserve the rights of the states to enact legislation that sets higher chemical safety standards than federal law.
The government is starting to show signs of getting it. Senator Frank Lautenberg is expected to introduce new legislation next month to reform the outdated Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) - the current federal law for regulating chemicals.
The report reminds me somewhat of The Environmental Working Group's cord blood tests and results and of friends who have had their own body burdens tested. These are people who are very careful about what they eat and surround themselves with. And their levels are still bad. This gunk is pervasive, just as Florence Williams proved when she tested her breastmilk and wrote about it for The New York Times Magazine. (Second full disclosure, she also wrote an essay for The Complete Organic Pregnancy.)
Meanwhile, sign petitions and write/call/email your elected officials. And do continue to minimize exposure to these chemicals when you can. Levels can build up in bodies over time, and you don't want to be involved with their continued manufacture. Avoiding them equals voting against them.
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