You, your developing baby and environmental toxins to avoid

Preconception and prenatal exposure to environmental toxins can have a detrimental impact on fetal development and lead to potentially long-lasting health effects. Though the evidence is mounting, the majority of reproductive health professionals have little training on how to effectively counsel patients in this regard.

Seattle Children’s Research Institute’s Sheela Sathyanarayana, MD, MPH, and her team have created guidelines on exposure risks and reduction tips for some of the most common environmental toxins, listed below:

  1. Mercury

Risk Factors: eating fish and seafood, contact with quicksilver, and use of skin-lightening creams. Exposure during pregnancy can lead to adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes that include lower IQ, poor language and motor development.

How to reduce exposure: Pregnant, preconception and breastfeeding women should follow U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state-specific fish consumption guidelines. Avoid shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tile fish and large tuna. Hong Kong’s surrounding waters are polluted, so I typically advise pregnant and lactating women to limit local seafood consumption.

2. Lead

Risk Factors: occupational exposure, imported cosmetics, renovating or remodeling a home built before 1970, contaminated water, contaminated food (including medicinal herbs).  Lead is neurotoxic to a developing fetus.

How to reduce exposure: Never eat nonfood items (clay, soil, pottery or paint chips); avoid jobs or hobbies that may involve lead exposure; stay away from repair, repainting, renovation and remodeling work conducted in homes built before 1978; eat a balanced diet with adequate intakes of iron and calcium; avoid cosmetics, food additives, medicines imported from overseas or without proper regulation standards; remove shoes at the door to prevent tracking in lead and other pollutants; use a high quality water filter.

3. Pesticides

Risk Factors: eating produce laden with pesticides; using pesticides in your home or on your pets. Exposure to pesticides in pregnancy has been shown to increase risk of intrauterine growth retardation, congenital anomalies, leukemia, and poor performance on neurodevelopmental testing.

How to reduce exposure: do not use chemical tick and flea collars or dips; avoid application of pesticides indoors and outdoors; consider buying organic produce when possible; wash all fruits and vegetables before eating; remove shoes at the door.

4. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals

Risk factors: human prenatal phthalate exposure is associated with changes in male reproductive anatomy and behavioral changes primarily in young girls. Animal studies suggest prenatal exposure to BPA is associated with obesity, reproductive abnormalities and neurodevelopmental abnormalities in offspring. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals mimic or change the effects of hormones in the endocrine system and can cause adverse health effects that can be passed on to future generations.

How to reduce exposure:  decrease consumption of processed foods; increase fresh whole foods; reduce consumption of canned foods; avoid use of plastics with recycled codes #3, #4 (*see below) and #7; be careful when removing old carpet because padding may contain chemicals; and use a vacuum machine fitted with a HEPA filter to get rid of dust that may contain chemicals

These guidelines were published online in February in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. If you are pregnant and want to know how Dr. Yik can support you through a natural and healthy pregnancy, click here.

SOURCE: American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology

*there was an error in the manuscript after the press release was distributed- recycling reference #4 should be #6

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