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Avoiding environmental hazards
In 2001, pediatricians, researchers and representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gathered to discuss chemical contaminants in breast milk and their impact on children’s health. Although the experts agreed that breast milk is the best source of nutrition in early infancy, they were concerned about toxins being passed from mothers to infants through breast milk, says Philip J. Landrigan, M.D., director of the Center for Children’s Health and the Environment at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. Landrigan suggests that you limit your exposure by taking the following steps before and during pregnancy and while breastfeeding:
Avoid gasoline and dry-cleaning fumes.
Avoid using paint and nail-polish removers.
Avoid installing new carpet or synthetic-wood furniture; they emit potentially hazardous gases. And don’t install a new computer, television or other large appliance that contains plastic, as it may contain toxic flame-retardant chemicals. Most are released over three to six weeks, so if you must buy any of these items, try to stay out of the affected room during that time frame, and leave the windows open as often as possible.
Remove lead paint from your home before you become pregnant. If you are pregnant, breastfeeding or have a young child, hire a certified lead contractor to remove the paint and repaint the area. Stay out of the house completely—even at night—until the job is finished. n Don’t eat fish that was caught in contaminated waterways. Avoid shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish, which may have high mercury levels. You may eat up to 12 ounces a week of fish and shellfish that are lower in mercury, such as shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock and catfish.
Eat organically grown fruits and vegetables.