Trying to get pregnant? Make sure you know the bottom line on baby-making—what you don't understand can affect your bub-to-be's health.
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A glass of champagne may be verboten during pregnancy, and secondhand smoke annoying, but few of us would consider them full-fledged toxins. We would be wrong. “Tobacco is weirdly similar in its makeup to diesel exhaust,” says Solomon, “and drinking alcohol produces some of the same birth defects as exposure to industrial solvents.”
Changing your daily habits can prevent exposure to many common environmental hazards. A strong-smelling chemical, especially if it triggers morning sickness, is a red flag. “Listen to your body,” says Solomon. “Stay away from concentrations of trucks and buses, and avoid such solvents as vapors from dry cleaning and gasoline.” Because solvents are so easily absorbed and inhaled, ask your partner to pump the gas and visit the dry cleaner. Avoid home improvement projects that emit fumes from solvents, such as refinishers or glues; if you must paint, choose low- or non-VOC (volatile organic compound) paints and ask someone else to wield the brush. Most moms-to-be know that pesticides can be harmful, but “studies show that a surprising number apply them to their pets,” says Solomon. “They’ll use a flea shampoo on the dog or put a flea collar on the cat.” Instead, she recommends, “Look for nontoxic shampoo, wash the pet’s bedding in hot water and use a flea comb to check for pests.”
Other hazardous chemicals include bisphenol A (BPA), a hormone disruptor found in plastics, the lining of food cans and even in the coating on sales receipts; and perfluorinated compounds, found in nonstick cookware, grease-resistant food packaging (such as microwave popcorn bags and pizza boxes), stain-resistant fabrics and personal-care products. Don’t buy items like cleaning products or cosmetics that contain the ingredients “fluoro” or “perfluoro,” and if you must use Teflon cookware don’t heat it higher than 450° F, and discard it when it deteriorates. Avoid disinfectants or any cleaning products with such chemicals as formaldehyde—or with a label that warns: Keep out of reach of children. Even better: Make your own safe cleaners with vinegar, baking soda and lemon juice. Finally, keep your home and body as un-perfumed as possible. Air fresheners and conventionally scented cosmetics often contain chemicals that can alter hormones.
YOU reduce your risk for certain pregnancy complications and, later in life, cancer, thyroid, respiratory and other health problems.
YOUR BABY starts life with a lower “body burden” of industrial chemicals and has a lower risk for neurological problems. His or her risks for obesity, asthma, allergies and diabetes will be lower.
THE PLANET benefits because fewer toxins are being introduced into the air, soil and waterways. Meanwhile, as a consumer, you’re pushing the marketplace to create cleaner and safer products.