Looking for some guidelines to help you reduce toxic risks during your pregnancy? This helpful information can ensure you and your growing family are safe and healthy.
Reduce Toxin Exposure
Maternal exposures can be transferred across the placenta to the developing fetus, says Dr. Frederica Perera, PhD, director of the Center for Children's Environmental Health at Columbia University. The center's studies of 500 baby-mother pairs have found that some pesticides, such as carbamates and chlorpyrifos, "very readily cross the placenta and we've related those exposures to poor fetal growth and lower birth weight," Dr. Perera says. Researchers also found high levels of carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) crossing the placenta.
What can we do? "Women should join community efforts to reduce exposures to PAHs, which are combustion byproducts, from sources such as bus stations and power plants," Dr. Perera says. "There are certain practical steps women can take to reduce exposures in their home. Use safer alternatives to toxic pesticides and ask household visitors not to smoke."
To prevent bacterial illness, thoroughly cook meat and poultry to 160 and 180 degrees F, respectively, and avoid raw fish. Deli meats, poultry, soft cheeses, and hot dogs can contain Listeria, which can cause miscarriages. Ask your doctor if you have concerns about what is and is not safe for you to eat during pregnancy.
Test Your Water
Ask your water supplier for your town's drinking-water report (visit the EPA website for more information). Check for trihalomethanes, chlorination byproducts that may increase the risk of miscarriage at levels above 75 micrograms per liter. Test well water annually for nitrate, too; and all parents should test for lead, which can leach from pipes. Most pharmacies and hardware stores offer inexpensive home lead tests.