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Study Finds Pregnant Women Awash in Harmful Chemicals

Pregnant women and toxins in the environment

Moms-to-be carrying toxins too

A study from the University of California-San Francisco, published today in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives finds an overwhelming percentage of moms-to-be have multiple no-no chemicals in their systems.

Tracey Woodruff, an author on the study and director of the Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment at UCSF, says her team tested 163 chemicals, many of which are known to be detrimental to health and found that multiple chemicals were present in almost all the moms.

Of the 163 chemicals measured, 43 were found in more than 99 percent of the pregnant women in the study.  Here are some of the chemicals she found (get ready to re-think your PJ’s, sunscreen, cans, and non-stick omelet pan):

The chemicals (some of which are banned), include PCBs (a prohibited chemical), pesticides, perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), phenols, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), phthalates, banned chemicals used as flame retardants, and benzophenone-3 (an active ingredient used in sunscreen).

Certain flame retardants were banned in the 1970’s from clothing, but still show up in furniture foam and TV sets. And many have very stable chemical bonds, so they stay in our systems for a long time.

The notorious bisphenol A (BPA) was found in 96% of women. BPA has been cut from many plastics, including those used in baby bottles and tupperware, but it’s still in a lot of food cans and containers. Meanwhile, we have reason to think that it can impact the reproductive system, since it’s an endocrine disrupter.

Why the seemingly free-ranging chemical exposure?  Well, we don’t have any good regulations in place on chemicals manufacturers. The Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 is in need of an overhaul, say the researchers. Right now chemicals don’t have to be tested before going to market — they have to be proven harmful after they’re already in use (which is extremely hard to do, just look at how long it’s taken researchers to chip away at the BPA question).

Of course there’s no eliminating chemicals from our systems completely. But here are a few tips on keeping exposure down:

1. eat organic fruits and veggies when you can

2. wash your hands and your house frequently

3. check your beauty and cleaning products

4. don’t microwave in plastic, use glass instead

Do you have any other tips on limiting exposure to harmful chemicals? If you’re pregnant, is this something you think about?

Image: flickr

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