Toxic Chemicals in All Pregnant Women? Don't Tell Me!

Toxic chemicals found in most pregnant women may negate all of our best efforts to have a natural, chemical-free pregnancy. How's that for bad news?

When we're pregnant, most of us try to eat the best we've ever eaten, drink plenty of water, sleep better hours, and generally treat our bodies better than we do when it's just us inside them. And why not? Gestating a baby is a big job and since we share everything with the fetus, why wouldn't we want to be extra cautious?

It turns out, we may still be teeming with toxic chemicals. According to USA Today, a new study shows the typical pregnant woman has many potentially toxic or even cancer-causing chemicals in her body. This includes ingredients found in flame retardants and rocket fuel.

Almost all 268 women studied had detectable levels of eight types of chemicals in their blood or urine, finds the study, published in today's Environmental Health Perspectives. It analyzed data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These chemicals include certain pesticides, flame retardants, PFCs used in non-stick cookware, phthalates (in many fragrances and plastics), pollution from car exhaust, perchlorate (in rocket fuel), and PCBs, toxic industrial chemicals banned in 1979 that persist in the environment.

Many of these chemicals do, in fact, pass through the placenta and can concentrate in the fetus, says lead author Tracey Woodruff, director of the University of California at San Francisco Program on Reproductive Health and Environment. The chemicals have also been found in umbilical cords.

To make it even worse, the study only tested for 163 chemicals. There may be more that are just untested. It's disturbing news to say the least. But why do we need to know it? In general, it seems important to know these things, but there is very little most of us can do to combat this, short of a major overhaul on a national level that would take time and money.

"As part of daily life, our bodies naturally absorb organic and man-made chemicals from our environments, and analytical advances now allow researchers to measure exceedingly minute traces of such substances," spokesman Scott Jensen for the American Chemistry Council says. Even the CDC notes that the "mere presence of a chemical in the body does not mean that it will cause effects or disease," he says.

If he's right, then great. If he's not, then what can we do about it? For now, it just seems like yet another way to terrify us all and cause great stress when in actuality, there is very little we can actually do.

Do you want to know things like this?


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