Book to Help Reduce Toxin Exposure During Pregnancy

Pregnant woman putting on lipstick

During your pregnancy, the developing fetus is far more vulnerable to toxins than you are as an adult. You are your baby’s protection, so protect your own environment to give your baby the best possible start.

Let’s start with the positive.  You need:

  • Clean Air (so, avoid outdoor activity when air quality is low and pollution is high, driving in congested traffic, wood fires, and, of course, smoking)
  • Clean Water (so, filter your drinking water, unless you know it is safe from the tap, and use a safe water bottle, such as stainless steel)
  • Clean Food (so, eat whole foods rather than processed food-like substances, and buy organics when you can afford them, especially dirty dozen; buy food in glass containers and use glass containers when you store leftovers)
  • Clean House (so, let someone else paint as you prepare for baby, switch to cleaner household cleaners and personal care products, and don’t wear perfumes; also, don’t rush into essential oils if you haven’t consulted an actual professional.)

With the pervasiveness of toxins in our modern lives, you need to do more than rush toward the positive. You need to understand and avoid the negative. You need to know what toxins surround you and where to look for them so you can remove them from your life.

Books about Avoiding Toxin Exposure

Are you ready to learn more? We stock a few carefully chosen books that we find most help us create healthy environments for our families.

There’s Lead in Your Lipstick: Toxins in Everyday Body Care and How to Avoid Them, Gillian Deacon
There's Lead in Your Lipstick

Your lipstick, shampoo, deodorant, nail polish, soap, and the rest of your personal care products could be exposing you to toxic chemicals unless you have switched to safe cosmetics. You can always make a quick check in the Skin Deep database to see what grade your products get. To be proactive about your choices, educate yourself with There’s Lead in Your Lipstick. You don’t need to go skin bare when you are pregnant (though, of course, you can!). If you still need cream for the stretching skin across your belly, you have natural skin care options. We sell these products because we use these products.

Slow Death by Rubber Duck: How the Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Life Affects Our Health, Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie
Slow Death by Rubber Duck

Beyond the (almost) obvious toxins in our grooming products, we are poisoned every day through basic household products. Read Slow Death by Rubber Duck to clean up your life during or before pregnancy, then you will have created a toxin-free environment for your new baby. A disturbing but empowering book. If you need a kick to clean up, this is it.

Ecoholic: Your Guide to the Most Environmentally Friendly Information, Products and Services in Canada, Adria Vasil

Ecoholic reaches beyond just household products to become a Canada-wide guide to green energy, incentives and rebates available, waste disposal, and other services. You will need this information as you clean up your life. City-by-city guide includes Calgary, Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver, and Winnipeg. This is just one of Adria Vasil’s Ecoholic books. We also carry Ecoholic Body and Ecoholic Home.

The Natural Pregnancy, Aviva Jill Romm, MD
The Natural Pregnancy Book

The Natural Pregnancy Book focuses on herbs to promote health, but you will also learn what to avoid. If you are looking for a positive focus, keep this book next to your resting place during your safe, natural pregnancy.

Funny Aside. It must be early. My husband asked, “What are you writing about?”

“Avoiding toxins during pregnancy.”

“Why would you want to avoid dauchshunds during pregnancy?”

I wouldn’t. Dauchshunds should be completely safe during pregnancy. Who can resist a wagging doxie?

Remember, your happiness spreads to your developing baby.

Photo pregnant girl paints lips – Image © Robertprzybysz |

Preventing Lead Exposure in Your Children

Peeling paint

You have probably heard that you should prevent your children from being exposed to lead in house paint and on imported toys. No amount of lead exposure is safe. Any lead exposure, in whatever system of the body it lands, causes harm.

Preventing lead exposure in children and pregnant women is especially important because of the permanent neurological damage it can cause, impairing learning and behavior for life.

Where Are Children Exposed to Lead?

I didn’t realize how common lead exposure through drinking water is until I read my local water report for this past year and paid attention to the fact that my water filter specifically filters out lead. I thought exposures came mostly through lead-based paints, but lead is more pervasive in our lives than that because of all of the ways lead has been used in industrial society. The word “plumbing,” for example, comes from the Latin word for lead, plumbum, because lead pipes were so common. Have you ever played Clue (or Cluedo)? We still use lead pipes in the game.

Lead is pervasive.

These are just some of the ways your children can be exposed to lead.

  • Lead-based paints in houses built before 1960s in Canada or painted before 1978 in the U.S.
  • Plumbing installed before 1990 in Canada or 1986 in the U.S.
  • ANY plumbing fixtures, since even “lead-free” fixtures can contain up to 8% lead
  • Any water that moves through plumbing fixtures, especially in older houses
  • Almost all food, which can pick up traces of lead from soil an air
  • Canned food, because of lead in solder (though Canadian manufacturers have eliminated lead from solder)
  • Air, since industrial emissions can put lead into our air, though banning leaded gasoline in Canada in 1990 has meant almost undetectable levels of lead in the air
  • Dust from industrial emissions, from lead-paint, or even from from rocks that include lead naturally
  • Soil where lead dust has settled
  • Shoes that pick up settled lead dust
  • Carpet where people have walked with lead dust on their shoes
  • Leaded crystal, especially with acidic drinks like fruit juice or wine
  • Lead-glazed ceramics or glassware, especially with acidic food or drinks
  • Fumes from candles with lead in the wicks
  • Fumes from burning wood with lead-paint, batteries, or other waste
  • Lead or lead solder used in created stained glass and other crafts
  • Hunting with lead shot or fishing with lead weights
  • Wild game shot with lead shot
  • Contaminated clothes brought home after being worn at work at a foundry, refinery, or smelter
  • Breastmilk, since mothers exposed to lead can pass it on to their babies

I’m sure you get the idea. Am I suggesting you not exposure your child to breastmilk? Absolutely not. I just want you to understand how lead is everywhere. To limit exposures, we have to be smart about where lead has come from.

What Does Lead Exposure Look Like?

It isn’t always easy to recognize symptoms of lead exposure until there is serious damage done, but symptoms and effects can include nervous system damage, cognitive impairment or impairment of cognitive development, developmental delays, aggression, attention problems, hearing impairment, sight impairment, headaches, metabolism and digestive issues. For a long, alarming list of potential impacts of lead poisoning along with the cited studies that have found the problems, see Lead Action News from Australia.

Prevent Lead Exposure in Your Children

The smartest approach to lead exposure is to prevent it before children or developing fetuses are exposed. Considering how common lead is in our environment now and how dire the consequences of exposure are, it’s difficult not to be discouraged, but you can still take steps to prevent your children’s exposure.

  • Understand where exposures happen and avoid them
  • When you are pregnant, especially, stay away from all of the likely places of lead exposure
  • Have your drinking water tested
  • Filter your drinking water for lead
  • Eat an iron-rich and calcium-rich diet for yourself and your children to prevent lead absorption
  • Have a professional remove lead paint from your house to limit dust and exposure
  • Replace lead soldered plumbing
  • Damp dust to prevent exposure to settling lead
  • Vacuum frequently
  • Remove shoes at the door
  • Teach your children what to avoid and why
  • When you have young children, watch what goes in their mouths.
  • Buy toys, especially toys for young children, made from natural materials by manufacturers you trust.

Because you need to prevent the exposure when your children are quite small, try to get their help by teaching them what to avoid. The New York State Department of Health has developed a curriculum to help preschool children and their families understand the risks and avoidance of lead poisoning. Some of the songs, activities, crafts, and stories could be used effectively at the family level.

Image © Inna Felker |

Most Plastics Leach Hormone-like Chemicals

A worrying new study found that BPA is not the only chemical leaching from common household plastic products that come in contact with food. Sonya Lunder, a senior analyst from the Environmental Working Group said in an NPR story Wednesday:

“We’ve long cautioned consumers to avoid extreme heat and cooling for plastics, to discard scratched and worn plastics and we feel like this (study) validates one of our many concerns,” she says.

According to the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, this is a problem that can be solved.

Plastics Hit You Coming and Going

Shoreline plastic pollutionPlastic is pervasive in our lives. Some of us have made efforts to avoid plastic because of a sense that natural materials are better for our families and better for our babies. Let’s add some concrete reasons to our avoidance of plastics.

We need to face the costs of plastics at both ends of the chain: in oil and gas exploration and in the toxic effects on our lives.

What Is Plastic Made Of?

Chart my husband learned from in school

Chart my husband learned from in school

Plastic is made from oil and gas. Crude oil is distilled and separated into fractions, or simpler mixtures of the materials. Plastic can be made either from crude oil after it has been fractionated into gases or from natural gas. These resources require extensive exploration, negotiation, regulation, and defense. There is a limited amount of oil and gas available, so the world is constantly working to find new sources or to harvest the resources where it was not profitable enough to do so before. Every story you hear about oil and gas has to be related to plastics as well as to gasoline and other petroleum products.

The news is full of heartbreaking stories about the consequences of oil and gas exploration and production. Since the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, I see more headlines about “our addiction to oil.” We need to expand that. When we talk about breaking the addiction to oil, we have to talk about plastics. Oil should not be mistaken as just an issue of gasoline and transportation. Our dependence on plastics for everyday household products are a huge part of our need to push to find new sources of oil and gas without adequate safety nets.

Move On Oil on BirdWhen we see photos of tar balls on beaches and oil slicks covering hundreds of miles, we need to consider how we are working to lessen our dependence of petroleum products. When we see costs of seafood go up dramatically, we need to consider whether the alleged convenience of throwaway plastics has been worth those externalized costs.

I’ve just been shocked and almost overwhelmed to see the consequences of oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico. We all need to make the connection between petrochemical products, including plastics, and the devastation that we are seeing on the news.

What Is So Bad About Plastic?

Beyond the oil in the Gulf of Mexico, if we can even come close to beyond that, are health and environmental issues that follow from exposure to some plastics.

There are two approaches to the safety of plastics, the cautious approach that says it’s important to prove safety before use and the more common approach that it’s important to prove risk before removal from use. In general, safety advocates and environmentalists are taking the cautious approach and business and regulators are taking the risky approach. More and more, though, the cautious approach is becoming the mainstream approach.

In just the past two weeks, I have seen several major efforts by mainstream news to document toxic plastics. 60 Minutes ran a story on phthalates, the plastic softeners that make flexible plastic flexible (“Phthalates: Are They Safe?”); The New Yorker ran a story on BPA (bisphenol A) and other toxic plastics (“The Plastic Panic”); and yesterday I noticed that CNN is running a special on plastics (“Toxic America”). Once the story has hit these news outlets, people are aware and the approach tips far more toward the cautious approach. I’m even starting to hear more people in the mainstream calling for banning the more suspicious plastics from use.

Oil & gas and plastic industry lobbyists in these documentaries say that either the materials are safe because it hasn’t been proven otherwise or the regulations allow use of the materials so they’re just fine. They imply that there is no proof of risk or harm, but the scientific evidence showing risk and harm is building. The U.S. President’s Cancer Panel, for example, issued a report recommending strengthening U.S. federal chemical laws, increasing funding for research, and stepping up enforcement. The frank approach of the study is alarming, as it should be.

The Panel was particularly concerned to find that the true burden of environmentally induced cancer has been grossly underestimated. With nearly 80,000 chemicals on the market in the United States, many of which are used by millions of Americans in their daily lives and are un- or understudied and largely unregulated, exposure to potential environmental carcinogens is widespread. One such ubiquitous chemical, bisphenol A (BPA), is still found in many consumer products and remains unregulated in the United States, despite the growing link between BPA and several diseases, including various cancers. “Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk: What We Can Do Now,” p5.

Parents should understand that the burden of environmental toxins, including plastics, is not shared equally. “[C]hildren are far more vulnerable to environmental toxins and radiation than adults” because of their smaller body mass and their rapid development. “To a disturbing extent,” the panel writes, “babies are born ‘pre-polluted.’” This pre-pollution is causing alarming changes, particularly in boys as soft plastics (phthalates) mimic some human hormones and have been shown to disrupt normal development, feminizing some males. (Of the recent stories, the 60 Minutes pieces goes into this in the most detail.)

Our use of plastics in so many products has been a giant experiment on the human race and on the earth. The data from that experiment are coming in, and the results are not good for us.

Plastic may be pervasive in our lives, but WE make the choices. In most cases (I’m excepting many medical situations—for now), we can use alternatives that don’t carry as many risks.

Special thanks to Taina of Plastic Manners. She is blogging her efforts to give up plastics for a year. She doesn’t have children, but she gets a lot of comments on her blog from parents. She encouraged us to cover the effort to eliminate plastics from babies’ and children’s lives.

Image © Bidouze Stéphane |