by Steve Graham
You want a safe, healthy child, but want to continue home improvement projects during pregnancy. Some projects may be dangerous for pregnant women, particularly exposure to some chemicals in the first trimester. Later in the pregnancy, chemical risks decrease slightly, but the threat of falls from ladders increases.
Here are the right and wrong projects for pregnant women:
Avoid constant, long-term exposure to paint, and avoid spray paint. Paint contains solvents and other organic compounds that may be linked to miscarriages, low birth weight, birth defects, developmental disabilities, and childhood cancer. However, reliable clinical evidence only connects such dangers with high exposures, such as for professional painters or paint factory workers.
No studies have measured smaller levels exposure during pregnancy and specifically linked any problems to a certain chemical. Since 1978, no paint has contained lead, the most dangerous potential ingredient. Avoid exposure to old paint that is chipped and cracked, and avoid scraping or sanding old paint. If such work must be done in your house while you are pregnant, leave the house until after the project is complete.
Newer paint is unleaded, but has volatile organic compounds that may be hazardous, particularly during pregnancy. Look for paint with low VOC levels, and only use light tints. Most tints contain VOCs, with increasing levels in darker colors.
To be really safe, avoid painting. Otherwise, minimize exposure and health risks:
- Talk to your doctor about your painting project
- Wear long pants, long sleeves, and gloves
- Keep the house thoroughly ventilated with open windows and portable fans blowing the air outside.
- Take frequent breaks outside
- Avoid oil paints.