In my first post, I wrote about a pattern that my colleagues and I have recognized in our patients with environmentally linked illnesses. Over the years we have been seeing more children with that pattern which is either not being recognized or is being dismissed in the pediatrician’s office. Why are kids getting chronically sick? Why are there more developmental problems and disabilities in childhood?
More and more studies are linking these changing health patterns in kids to exposures starting even before birth!
Most young women are aware that they shouldn’t smoke or drink alcohol during pregnancy. Coffee consumption should be reduced, and eliminated during the first trimester. Doctors tell pregnant women to stay away from unpasteurized dairy products and undercooked or raw fish and eggs, because of risk for infection and miscarriage. But what about protecting unborn children from chemicals? Multiple exposures occur before birth. Where are they coming from? There is more to consider than avoiding fish with high levels of mercury, like tuna and swordfish.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Prospective and pregnant mothers need to decrease their own exposures to protect their babies. Foods available in your grocery store contain numerous chemicals. Pregnant women should eat organic foods when possible and minimize the use of all cosmetics and creams which are absorbed into the body. Stay away from fragrances wherever possible including scented cleaning products. If you’re going to exercise outside, stay away from traffic and try to enhance your indoor air quality with an air exchanger and a HEPA filter. Filter your water.
Environmental pollutants in both the indoor and outdoor air can make a more profound impact on their development, especially learning and memory, and autism. Home renovations during pregnancy have been identified as risk factors for developing congenital heart disease or allergies and asthma during early childhood. Polyvinyl flooring and carpets, furniture and paints or adhesives are sources for different groups of chemicals. Pregnant moms should not be painting their baby’s room. Mom should sleep somewhere else until the renovations are complete and there are no detectable odours. Crib mattresses need to be aired out and in a well ventilated area. Air out the drawers in the new dresser with the window wide open, but the door closed.
The precautionary principle tells us that when human activities might lead to unacceptable harm that is plausible but might not yet be proven, actions should be taken to avoid or diminish that harm. In future blogs I will be referring back to this principle. Research has proven that there are over 200 chemicals in blood taken from the umbilical chord, many of which have not been properly tested for human safety, especially in children. It’s time to use the precautionary principle and add an extra layer of protection to try to protect your baby from environmentally linked conditions.
Women can’t go live on a remote island or a mountain top for the nine months of pregnancy but there are many actions that can be taken today to reduce exposures to unborn children.