Jul 1, 2014
Toxic Risk to Pregnant Women
Jagessar Chaffer, a documentary filmmaker and children’s environmental health advocate, taught herself, while pregnant, that dozens of environmental chemicals can negatively impact a developing fetus. Birth defects, IQ losses and childhood cancers are just some potential risks that scientists have linked to even low levels of exposure. Despite the hazards that exist, most prenatal care in the United States does not involve educating the expectant mother on which environmental chemicals to avoid.
According to a national survey, among nearly all of the 2,500 obstetricians that were consulted, nearly all of them reported counseling patients on factors such as diet, exercise and cigarette smoking. Only 20 percent said they addressed environmental exposures. Just one in 15 doctors said they received training on harmful reproductive effects of toxic chemicals.
Sonya Lunder, senior analyst with the nonprofit Environmental Working Group, noted that pregnancy can also be a window of increased exposures. "Being pregnant is a time when people are more likely to be moving or remodeling," said Lunder, citing often overlooked concerns such as volatile organic compounds in the paint that expecting parents might apply inside a new nursery.
"Doctors feel there are not clear messages they can give to patients. But I think there are," said Lunder. "While there is uncertainty in some relationships [between chemicals and health problems], there are a lot of associations that have been borne out."The Environmental Working Group provides a free pregnancy guide that covers several toxin-avoiding steps, including cutting out nonessential personal care products and making seafood choices that maximize healthy omega-3 fatty acids while minimizing mercury exposure.
Deborah Wiancek, N.D. Deborah Wiancek