Exactly what is the full scope of a mother-to-be’s lifestyle on her unborn child? We’re reminded by our doctors to eat well during pregnancy, avoiding certain food products that, for example, contain mercury or are unpasteurized, in order to protect our babies from potential dangers to their development and health. Women are also encouraged to minimize stress while pregnant in order to keep their babies from marinating in an adrenalin-loaded soup.
The results of a 2004 study by the Environmental Working Group, in collaboration with Commonweal, indicate a need to expand our thinking when it comes to exposures pregnant women introduce to their unborn children. In the report, researchers at two major laboratories found an average of 200 industrial chemicals and pollutants in umbilical cord blood taken from 10 babies. A total of 287 industrial chemicals were found. These pollutants include perfluorochemicals (PFCs) found in carpet, furniture, and stain-proof coatings (e.g. the kind used in Teflon and furniture); Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), the fire retardants in TVs, furniture, and computers; and 21 different pesticides, including 14 that had been phased out of use in the U.S.
This study shows that in addition to carrying vital nutrients to babes in utero, the umbilical cord also carries these toxins, a disruption to the belief, previously held by scientists, that the placenta shielded babies from most chemicals and pollutants. We know that of the 287 chemicals found in cord blood, 217 are toxic to the brain and nervous system, 208 cause birth defects or abnormal development in animal tests, and 180 cause cancer in humans or animals.
What to do? Well, none of us can become the mom in the non-plastic bubble, but we can greatly reduce our exposure to numerous toxins by becoming informed and responsible consumers and world citizens. Read labels, learn what those ingredients are, choose products that are organic or as natural as possible, including home cleaning supplies, cosmetics, personal grooming products, clothing and home furnishings. Reduce the toxic load you ingest by eating food grown locally without pesticides. Learn how to improve the quality of the indoor air you’re breathing.
Green living isn’t about being trendy; it’s about living in a way that supports the health of our own bodies, the planet, and those we love, thereby reducing the toxic “body burden” on all of us.
By Terri Hall-Jackson, Care2 contributing writer