Monday, September 13, 2010

Baby’s first “environment”

When I found out I was pregnant for the first time, just over 6 years ago, I implemented a *few* lifestyle changes. I decreased my caffeine intake, tried to eat healthier foods, started taking a prenatal multivitamin, and assigned the heavy lifting to my husband….Ha!

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Ultimately though, I felt as if the major changes were going to have to take place after I gave birth. I already planned to move the poisonous cleaning chemicals to the cabinet above the refrigerator, instead of under the sink, as well as purchase the typical baby-proofing items such as gates and outlet covers. In my mind, my baby was safer where she was than when she would finally make her entrance into the world!

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Let’s have a quick science lesson….we already know that the umbilical cord and the placenta are the link between the mother and the baby before it is born. The mother’s blood enters the placenta and then travels through the umbilical cord to the baby. Then the baby’s heart pumps the blood out of its body and back through the umbilical cord to the placenta. The blood in the placenta is completely replaced 3-4 times each minute! A typical red blood cell will make a complete round trip every 30 seconds. At the end of the pregnancy, up to 300 quarts of blood per day will take this route! So what is my point? Along with the blood entering the baby’s body are elements that can harm an unborn baby.

Scientists used to believe that the placenta filtered out the chemicals and pollutants and therefore protected the baby. Recent studies have proven otherwise.

A few years ago, the Environmental Working Group conducted an umbilical cord blood study that revealed some scary facts. They found a total of 287 different industrial chemicals in the umbilical cord blood of the babies tested. Of the 287 found, 180 have been known to cause cancer in humans or animals, 217 are toxic to the brain and nervous system, and 208 cause birth defects or abnormal development in animal tests. (You can find the complete report here… “Body Burden—the Pollution in Newborns")They found an average of 200 chemicals in each baby including mercury, fire retardants, and pesticides.

Many of the chemicals found are considered endocrine disruptors. Remember this because I will be doing future posts regarding these. These chemicals throw the hormones in our bodies (and even our unborn baby’s body) completely out of sync.

Since the baby’s body and organs are still developing before it is born, its liver and kidneys are not mature enough to filter and get rid of these chemicals from their bodies as well as yours or mine. This causes the chemicals to accumulate in their bodies in higher concentrations than an average adult. Remember……up to 300 quarts of blood a day!

According to Philip J. Landrigan, M.D., professor of pediatrics at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and director of its Children’s Environmental Health Center, many of the chemicals that were found during the EWG’s study “weren’t in most consumer goods as recently as 40 years ago.” This means that there have been a limited amount of studies done to show the long-term effects of these chemicals throughout a lifetime. What we do know is that as the exposure to these chemicals has increased so have the rates of many chronic issues that we deal with today:

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While it isn’t clear yet as to what levels of which chemicals may have an impact on various diseases and issues, the evidence shows that we are coming in contact with various endocrine disruptors throughout our day from various sources.

I’ve said it before and I will say it again….

I understand that there is no way to protect ourselves and our children (born and unborn) from *every* dangerous thing in our environment. In fact, this isn’t an “all or nothing” deal. Even the smallest changes in what we buy and what we use can make a big difference. Many of these changes are very simple and can actually save you money. This blog is a place for me to share the changes that I will be making in my own home. Each person needs to make those decisions for themselves and their own families. No one has the right to judge other people for the decisions that they make.

Remember….

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” –Eleanor Roosevelt

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