Pregnant? Steer clear from these health hazards

Our environment is full of harmful chemicals. Here’s what to avoid, especially when pregnant.

You’ve packed in the folic acid tablets, following your gynaecologist’s and grandma’s advice. When you are pregnant or trying to conceive every thing becomes a health concern. But there are still a few ways that unhealthy toxins creep into your body, endangering not just yours but also your baby’s healthy.

Here are a few tips on eliminating them entirely:


We know. It’s the one weapon you have against the haywire hormones, however remember that body and hair treatments rely on toxic products. Most nail polishes, for instance, contain hazards like dibutyl phthalate, toluene, formaldehyde, xylene, methyl ethyl ketone andor acetone -chemicals capable of causing organ and nervous system damage to hormone disruption and cancer.

Hair dyes, too, have been linked to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, leukemia and bladder cancer. Consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Duru Shah says that while no studies have been done on humans to understand how hair dye affects the health of the baby “it is recommended that pregnant women don’t use any strong chemicals”. “Most hair dyes are left on the scalp for 25-30 minutes and the chemicals get absorbed through the scalp, which may cause problems for the baby. While tests that have been done until now have only been done on animals, to be safe, pregnant women should stay away from dyes,” she adds. If you must dye your hair, it’s best to avoid it in the first trimester as this is the crucial time in the baby’s development. “Even later, ensure that the dye does not touch the scalp.Highlights are best,” Dr Shah says.


Look at your dressing table carefully, including make-up, powder, soap, and shampoo to toothpaste and deodorant to belly cream. Replace them with organic products. Remember that the word `natural’ is unregulated, so look closely at the ingredients to pick the ones with a solid list of organic products. If you are confused ask your gynaecolo gist for recommendations.

Read the labels carefully.

Loopholes in regulations means that many firms don’t mention microscopic particles of undetermined toxicity that are part of the maker’s formula.

Scents, which can contain multiple chemical hazards, need only be listed as `fragrance’.


When buying groceries for the month opt for unprocessed grains, fruits, vegetables, proteins and dairy products. Pick fresh herbs and spices over canned foods, which contain unstudied chemicals. Whole foods are also more nutritious.

Organic food is produced without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilisers, sewage sludge, irradiation treatments, growth hormones, antibiotics or nonorganic feed.

Researchers at Emory University found that children who switched to an organic diet reduced the pesticide remnants found in their urine to virtually undetectable levels after just five days.

Remember that pesticides are not just a food problem. Even getting a regular pest control in your house could expose you to harmful chemicals. Dr Shah says, “Pesticides kill insects such as cockroaches by attacking their nervous system. They become paralysed and that’s how they die. These could also affect humans.


Compared to meats, foods lower down the food chain are largely free of a dangerous class of toxic chemicals known as persistent organic pollutants, or POPs. These include many pesticides, flame retardants, PCBs, dioxins, industrial chemicals, compounds made with chlorine and other pollutants. They’re fatsoluble, which means they tend to accumulate in the fatty tissues of animals. As a result, measurable quantities of POPs are often present in animals highest on the food chain -meat, dairy and seafood.

Foetal exposure to some POPs has been linked to developmental changes, memory and learning problems, and long-term effects on intellectual functioning. Others have been linked to miscarriage, poor development of the immune system and low birth weight.

You may not be able to avoid them altogether, especially sea food which is high in omega-3 fatty acids. It’s best to strike a balance.


It’s not just good for the environment but for your body as well. Plastic may contain toxic compounds that can migrate into food, especially when your meal or the plastic container is hot. Exercise caution when using plastics while pregnant.


It’s best to cook your own meals. And while you are doing that steer clear of your favourite non-stick cookware. It is lined with a chemical, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) that has been linked to cancer, heart disease, infertility and complications during pregnancy. The chemical is an endocrine disruptor and has been linked to low birth weight and impaired foetal growth.

Non-stick surfaces can also break down at high temperatures and the resulting fumes can cause flulike symptoms in humans and death in birds.

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