Here’s some shocking news there are over 4 million different types of chemicals commonly used in homes across the United States. Many of these have been shown to have adverse effects on pregnant women and their unborn babies. For example, a British study recently found that pregnant women who used household cleaners were twice as likely to have children with asthma. You don’t necessarily have to throw out all of your cleaning products to avoid these risks. Instead, you can replace some of your cleaning products with ammonia or chlorine, which may be less harmful to a developing fetus. (Be aware that ammonia and chlorine should never be combined; together they produce fumes that can have serious health consequences.) You can also follow a few simple guidelines when cleaning your home that will help keep you and your baby safe.
- Make sure that the space you are cleaning is well-ventilated.
- Wear rubber gloves to avoid absorbing chemicals through your skin.
- Be sure to read the labels on all containers and pay special attention to toxicity warnings.
- Avoid exposure to toluene, a solvent in paint thinners and certain glues. California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment has listed toluene as a “reproductive toxin” that could cause irreparable damage to a developing fetus.
- Consider giving up your favorite commercial cleansers and substituting natural alternatives, such as baking soda and vinegar. Baking soda can be used to scrub everything from dishes to bathtubs to even the greasiest oven. And vinegar, when combined with water, can be a wonderful cleaning solution, making your kitchen countertops look better than new. Commercial non-toxic cleaners are also available; just check the labels carefully.
- If you’re still concerned about the dangers of unknown chemicals, ask your spouse or partner to handle the household chores during your pregnancy!
Finally, as you begin to notice toxins you might not have given a second thought to before, continue to pay attention to the more commonly known dangers of lead. Exposure to lead has been known to cause significant brain damage to a fetus. And creating a lead-free environment is of the utmost important when you bring home your bundle of joy, as an infant could all-too-easily eat an old paint chip that’s fallen off the wall.
You can also visit my blog for more tips on cleaning house.
Mark Zakowski, M.D.
The Safe Baby System