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A new nationwide survey, conducted by University of California, San Francisco researchers, shows that most doctors are not informing their pregnant patients about environmental risks they may encounter while pregnant. Doctors surveyed in this research said that while they do routinely discuss issues like smoking, alcohol, diet, workplace hazards, secondhand smoke and weight gain, only 19% say they talk to their pregnant patients about pesticides and just 12% discuss air pollution. 44% percent of all doctors said they do talk about mercury dangers with pregnant women but only 11% even mention volatile organic compounds, only 8% warn patients about bisphenol A (BPA) and an astoundingly low amount of doctors (5%) bring up phthalates. This is disgraceful considering environmental risks have been linked to plenty of negative health consequences for mothers and babies, including the following…
- BPA has been linked to abnormal egg development in fetuses, low IVF success rates, breast cancer, breastfeeding problems and much more.
- Pesticides are linked to low birth weight and premature births.
- Lead, cadmium, mercury and other neurotoxic chemicals are linked to delayed conception, autism, ADHD, developmental problems, learning disabilities and delayed onset of walking and talking for babies.
- Polybrominated diphenylethers (PBDEs) are linked to liver toxicity, reduced birth weight of babies, neurodevelopmental toxicity, cancer and more.
- Air pollution is linked to asthma, autism, bodily inflammation, poor academic success, brain, respiratory, and digestive problems in early life, low IQ, developmental delays, slower lung growth and other serious issues.
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Researchers point out that these survey results, “Show a disconnect between environmental health research and what the physicians do – and do not – tell their patients.” Patrice Sutton, a research scientist at University of California, San Francisco’s Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment who helped design the survey notes that the goal of the study was to, “Try to break down obstacles that keep health messages from pregnant women. For instance, even though the dangers of mercury are well established, only four out of every 10 doctors said they discuss the contamination with pregnant women.” In spite of well established mercury research an estimated 300,000 newborns each year are still exposed to levels of methylmercury that exceed the guidelines that the EPA set to avoid neurological effects in fetuses and it’s likely because pregnant women are not being told about the dangers.
It’s no big secret that pregnancy care in the United States leaves much to be desired. An Amnesty International report conducted in 2010, “Deadly Delivery: The Maternal Health Care Crisis in the USA,” notes that although the USA spends more than any other country on health care, including maternal health, women in the USA still are more likely to die of pregnancy-related complications than those in 40 other countries. Amnesty International and the World Health Organization (WHO) both note that shoddy prenatal care and lack of access to care are major problems — and part of this problem is that doctors are keeping pregnant women in the dark when it comes to environmental toxins. In light of this research, your best bet is to become informed on your own so you can better protect your health and the health of your unborn child. Keep the following in mind:
- Learn more about the most dangerous toxins and chemicals and then avoid them.
- Avoid most fish during pregnancy.
- Use safe cleaning products and body care supplies before conception and during pregnancy.
- Avoid air pollution when possible.
- Eat foods that are free from flame retardants – aim for whole, not canned or overly processed foods.
- Read our best tips for a safe, healthy and green pregnancy.