Jo Rochester, MS, PhD
As parents, we strive to help our children reach their fullest potential. We send them to the best schools, feed them with the most wholesome ingredients, and foster their passions in the areas they choose. However, there is an additional way to ensure our kids stay happy and healthy, and it starts in the womb.
Chemical Exposure and Pregnancy
Research shows that many types of chemicals found in plastics and other man-made goods are linked to health risks in fetuses and infants. Two of these are called phthalates (pronounced “tha-leits”) and bisphenols. You might have heard of one type of bisphenol, BPA, the hard plastic that some reusable water bottles are made of (plastic #7).
Pregnant women would never knowingly expose their babies to harmful toxic chemicals. But these chemicals are present in all areas of our everyday life. Just how harmful are these chemicals to babies in the womb?
What we know
- BPA and phthalates are dangerous because they behave as “endocrine disruptors.” This means that they act like hormones in the body. They can change how our bodies function. As babies develop in the womb, hormones control almost every aspect of the baby’s growth. The growing brain, reproductive organs, lungs, (and more) all require a proper balance of hormones.
- Exposure to phthalates during pregnancy alters hormones in babies. Testosterone is a hormone that is needed for genital development. Exposing pregnant rats to phthalates decreased testosterone in the male pups. Phthalate exposure can also change thyroid hormones in pregnant women and cause genital defects in baby boys.
- Fetuses and infants may be at a greater risk than adults from chemical exposures. Babies in the womb are more vulnerable than adults. Their fragile bodies have fewer safeguards against toxic chemicals. There is concern that chemical exposure at a young age can lead to childhood disorders, including ADHD and reduced IQ.
- Exposure in the womb can cause problems in children. These problems may include ADHD and other neurologic (brain) issues, stunted growth, obesity, changes in appetite, or problems in the liver.
- Individual chemicals may combine to increase risk for the fetus. Some studies have shown that the adverse effects of toxic chemicals can magnify each other. Thus, the “chemical mixture” we are exposed to every day may be worse than the sum of the individual exposures.
It is unfair that people can be exposed to toxic chemicals without their knowledge. Even worse, these chemicals may cause life-long health problems. When it comes to toxic chemicals, prevention is key. Keep your family safe from phthalates and bisphenols.