Friday, June 25, 2010

Pregnant women need to lower exposure to everyday chemicals to protect baby

As a CBS TV news reporter, I read a lot of studies about how everyday chemicals including household cleaners, scented body lotions and pesticides bioaccumulate in our bodies.

A recent report from the President's Cancer Panel suggested that public health officials have "grossly underestimated" how chemicals in our environment have contributed to cancer among the 1.5 million people in the U.S. who are diagnosed every year.

Since there are no longterm studies proving this chemical cocktail is safe, there's no harm in making a few changes.

Now that I am pregnant (baby girl is due in October) I am trying my best to make a conscious effort to cut down on my exposure to everyday chemicals.

There's good reason for pregnant women to look for safer products...

Two major independent labs found newborns had, on average, 200 industrial chemicals and pollutants in their umbilical cord blood (collected by the Red Cross after the cord was cut).

Click here to read Body Burden: The Pollution in Newborns.

A pregnant woman's exposure to harsh cleaning products, stain repellants, pesticides can be passed along to her unborn child.

Here are 9 ways you can lower your exposure to everyday chemicals:
(Courtesy/Consumer Advocacy Non-Profit/Environmental Working Group)

1. Filter your tap water. Common carcinogens in tap water include arsenic, chromium, and chemical byproducts that form when water is disinfected. A simple carbon tap-mounted filter or pitcher can help reduce the levels of some of these contaminants. If your water is polluted with arsenic or chromium, a reverse osmosis filter will help. Learn about your tap water and home water filters at EWG's National Tap Water Database.

2. Seal outdoor wooden decks and play sets. Those built before 2005 are likely coated with an arsenic pesticide that can stick to hands and clothing. Learn more from EWG.

3. Cut down on stain- and grease-proofing chemicals. "Fluorochemicals" related to Teflon and Scotchgard are used in stain repellants on carpets and couches and in greaseproof coatings for packaged and fast foods. To avoid them, avoid greasy packaged foods and say no to optional stain treatments in the home. Download EWG's Guide to PFCs.

4. Stay safe in the sun. More than one million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the United States each year. To protect your skin from the sun's cancer-causing ultraviolet (UV) radiation, seek shade, wear protective clothing and use a safe and effective sunscreen from EWG's sunscreen database.

5. Cut down on fatty meat and high-fat dairy products. Long-lasting cancer-causing pollutants like dioxins and PCBs accumulate in the food chain and concentrate in animal fat.

6. Eat EWG's Clean 15. Many pesticides have been linked to cancer. Eating from EWG's Clean 15 list of the least contaminated fruits and vegetables will help cut your pesticide exposures. (And for EWG's Dirty Dozen, buy organic.) Learn more at EWG's Shopper's Guide to Pesticides.

7. Cut your exposures to BPA. Bisphenol A (BPA) is a synthetic estrogen found in some hard plastic water bottles, canned infant formula, and canned foods. Some of these chemicals cause cancer in lab studies. To avoid them, eat fewer canned foods, breast feed your baby or use powdered formula, and choose water bottles free of BPA. Get EWG's tips to avoid it.

8. Avoid carcinogens in cosmetics. Use EWG's Skin Deep cosmetic database to find products free of chemicals known or suspected to cause cancer. When you're shopping, don't buy products that list ingredients with "PEG" or "-eth" in their name.

9. Read the warnings. Some products list warnings of cancer risks -- read the label before you buy. Californians will see a "Proposition 65" warning label on products that contain chemicals the state has identified as cancer-causing.

Read more of my stories on Heather's Natural Health.