OBGYNs embrace need for environmental counseling

On Sept. 24, 2013, The American College of Obstetricians (ACOG) and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) issued a landmark Joint Committee Opinion stating that “patient exposure to toxic environmental chemicals and other stressors is ubiquitous, and preconception and prenatal exposure to toxic environmental agents can have a profound and lasting effect on reproductive health across the life course.”

They joined a growing group of international scientists addressing this relatively unknown concern.  Indeed in May 2013, the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecologists issued Scientific Impact Paper No. 37 which included a powerful set of recommendations:

  1. Use fresh food rather than processed foods
  2. Reduce use of foods/beverages in cans/plastic containers, including their use for food storage
  3. Minimise the use of personal care products such as moisturisers, cosmetics, shower gels and fragrances
  4. Minimise the purchase of newly produced household furniture, fabrics, non–stick frying pans and cars whilst pregnant/nursing
  5. Avoid the use of garden/household/pet pesticides or fungicides (such as fly sprays or strips, rose sprays, flea powders)
  6. Avoid paint fumes
  7. Only take OTC analgesics or painkillers when necessary
  8. Do not assume safety of products based on the absence of ‘harmful’ chemicals in their ingredients list, or the tag ‘natural’ (herbal or otherwise)

We badly need tougher environmental policy to protect women and their unborn children.  The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2003–2004 revealed that virtually every pregnant woman in the United States is exposed to at least 43 different chemicals.[1]  And a study conducted by the Environmental Working Group and Rachel’s Network between December 2007 and June 2008 and found an average of 232 different chemicals in the babies’ umbilical blood.[2] Sadly, our government has taken very limited steps; of 87,000 industrial chemicals on the market, only 200 have been evaluated.

Until we have better policy in place to protect the safety of women and their children, here are individual steps that you can take:

Food recommendations:

–      Eat organic poultry and meat

–      Follow the EWG Dirty dozen and clean fifteen or buy organic produce

–      Choose low mercury fish

Food storage

–      Stainless steel water bottles with purified tap water

–      Glass or ceramic food containers for microwave or storage

–      Avoid cans with BPA liners (most of them exceptions available here)

Personal care products

–      Use the cosmetics database to assess your products.  Or find new ones here.

–      Avoid soap with triclosan

Practices at home

–      Remove shoes at front door

–      Avoid insecticides

–      No VOC paint, avoid flame retardants

For more guidance consider reading my new book: Be Fruitful: The Essential Guide to Maximizing Fertility and Giving Birth to a Healthy Child Victoria Maizes MD (Scribner 2013)

[1] Woodruff TJ, Zota AR, Schwartz JM. Environmental chemicals in pregnant women in the United States: NHANES 2003-2004. Environ Health Perspect 2011;119:878–85

[2] “Environmental Working Group” Peter Fimrite, “Chemicals, Pollutants Found in Newborns,” San Francisco Chronicle, December 3, 2009