Pregnant Paint

What every mum-to-be needs to know about chemicals and her pregnancy! – 

Laura Vandenberg worries whenever she hears a pregnant friend talk about painting a nursery. She gets even more concerned when she learns of a childbearing woman spraying chemical pesticides on her lawn. “It sounds like a no-brainer, but you see it,” said Vandenberg, a postdoctoral fellow in biology at Tufts University.

“If there is a group of people that could inform these women about the dangers to an expected child,” she added, “it is absolutely their OB/GYNs.”

Many reproductive health doctors remain largely unaware of both the lengthening list of toxic chemicals their patients are exposed to every day and the widening range of risks the chemicals might pose to a vulnerable, developing baby — from cancer to obesity to lower IQ.

A pair of papers published this month highlight this dilemma, as well as the public health benefits that could come with solving it. More babies would grow up healthy, researchers say, if more obstetricians and gynecologists use their unique positions to counsel women and inform policies that eliminate toxic chemicals from a woman’s environment in the first place.

It took a patient asking if growing up in Love Canal, N.Y. — home of the infamous toxic waste site — could have anything to do with her recurrent miscarriages for Dr. Linda Giudice to connect environmental exposures and human health.

“I didn’t know what to say,” recalled Giudice, chair of the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at the University of California, San Francisco, and a researcher on one of the new papers.

Now, after educating themselves, Giudice and a growing number of reproductive health physicians are cautioning patients to avoid things like spraying pesticides while trying to get pregnant or during pregnancy.

“Every mom wants to do the right thing for their baby,” said Dr. Tanya Dailey, an OB/GYN in Providence, R.I., and a researcher on the other paper.

“We don’t want to scare women, but we also want to limit exposures,” added Dailey, who said she received little-to-no training on environmental exposures during medical school, yet faces more and more questions on the issue from patients. Now, Dailey might advise a pregnant woman to eat only small fish, for example, explaining that marine life lower on the food chain will accumulate less mercury and other toxic chemicals.

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