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We asked. You answered. Of readers polled online, 69 percent are now more concerned with "going green" than before they became pregnant. Why? Not just because choosing eco-friendly products and reducing the amount of resources used is trendy. Put simply, contributing to a healthier planet makes for healthier people, including you and your family. During pregnancy, making simple changes in the foods you eat and the products you use can lessen your and your growing baby's exposure to toxic chemicals. And while the most environmentally correct options may not always seem like the most practical, baby steps add up.
Fortunately, finding products made with fewer chemicals is getting easier. Responding to consumer demand, more manufacturers are now using recycled or recyclable materials that are less harmful to humans and the earth.
You can always think a little greener in the choices you make, whether that's seeking out linens produced without tons of chemicals, growing your garden with natural fertilizers or purchasing organic household products. How, where and when you make changes is up to you.
To help you decide whether to go green (taking a simple step), greener (requiring a bit of effort) or greenest (making very conscious choices but not always hard ones), here are a few ideas for reducing, reusing and recycling through all three trimesters and beyond. (And visit fitpregnancy.com/goinggreen to take our "How Green Are You?" quiz and get even more eco information.)
Pure Personal Care
The gentlest, most natural body-care products and cosmetics benefit not only new moms but also Mother Earth, by lowering the amount of toxic chemicals that end up in the air, soil and groundwater. But more than 99 percent of all personal-care products contain one or more ingredients that have never been safety tested or regulated, according to the Environmental Working Group, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that publishes reports on threats to human health and the environment. Many (such as shampoos, lotions, soaps and deodorants) are known to contain potentially harmful petrochemicals known as phthalates, which are linked to permanent birth defects of the male reproductive system.
"The sad truth is that virtually all of us are regularly exposed to low levels of phthalates," says Shanna H. Swan, Ph.D., director of the Center for Reproductive Epidemiology at the University of Rochester."But we can avoid at least some of these exposures until the use of these chemicals in everyday materials and products is more aggressively restricted."
Green Keep your hair and nail color natural. "The solvents in most fingernail polishes are of particular concern to pregnant women," says Bruce P. Lanphear, M.D., M.P.H., director of the Environmental Health Center at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and professor of pediatrics and environmental health at the University of Cincinnati. "The chemicals in many cosmetics and other personal-care products have not been universally tested to make sure they don't cause adverse consequences--particularly in a developing child," adds Lanphear, who recommends avoiding any chemical you possibly can, especially during pregnancy.
If you still want to polish your nails while you're expecting, some brands are safe to use: Zoya (artofbeauty.com) products are free of toluene, formaldehyde and dibutyl phthalate; Acquerella (acquarellapolish.com) is a nontoxic, water-based line of nail polishes, polish removers and moisturizers.
Nontoxic hair color choices include Tints of Nature (tintsofnature.au), a permanent hair color made with certified organic ingredients, and Surya Henna Cream (bythe planet.com), a nonpermanent hair color containing natural, organic herb and fruit ingredients and lacking ammonia, heavy metals or parabens.
Greener Choose fragrance-free products, which may lessen your exposure to phthalates. Manufacturers aren't required to list these chemicals individually, but they're often hidden in the word fragrance on the label. And use caution with cosmetics from other countries. "Some, such as kohl, have been found to contain lead," says Mark Miller, M.D., M.P.H., director of the Pediatric Environmental Health Unit at the University of California, San Francisco. Over time, lead exposure can cause irreversible neurological damage.
Other good options in personal-care products include California Baby's Overtired & Cranky Aromatherapy Bubble Bath (californiababy.com), Origins' A Perfect World Antioxidant Moisturizer With White Tea (origins.com) and the entire All-Sensitive line from Aveda (aveda.com).
Greenest Fill reusable containers with eco-friendly and economical shampoos and lotions that are available in bulk at natural-food stores such as New Seasons Market and Whole Foods Market. Or choose products that come in recycled or recyclable packaging, such as those from Aubrey Organics (aubrey-organics.com), Aura Cacia (auracacia.com) and Burt's Bees (www.burtsbees.com).