New Mama Musings

Friday, July 29, 2005

Contamination Investigation

Returning to the topic of choices my husband and I are making, I need to say a few things about environmental toxins. You were hoping I would, weren't you?

It had been in the back of my mind for a long time to look into the things we were breathing, consuming, and soaking in through our skin. I was aware of a few things -- the hormones in meat, the chlorine in city water, the chemical offgassing of new carpeting -- but frankly, the whole thing seemed a bit too overwhelming to take on.

Still, when I got pregnant I started researching in earnest and have begun to make some changes. For example:

We put a water filter on the shower I use and bought one for the tub the baby will be bathing in. The chlorine in water can be absorbed into our bodies not only through consumption, but by soaking it into our skin and inhaling it into our lungs. Chlorine combines with other chemicals to create cancer-causing agents. It can also contribute to asthma and other allergic disorders.

We chose an organic, chemical-free crib mattress and sheets for the baby, figuring that the air around the mattress is what he will be breathing the majority of his early life. A typical mattress is made with polyurethane foam and treated with flame retardants such as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), which can interfere with hormone function. Stain and water repellents are applied too; these include Teflon, which DuPont has been fined over for covering up its health and environmental effects, and Scotchguard, which DuPont has already had to reformulate once. No wonder the incidence of SIDS has decreased since the campaign to put babies down to sleep on their backs instead of their stomachs.

Another big cause for concern is the plastic used to make baby bottles, water bottles and other food storage containers. In a recent study researchers found that the chemical, bisphenol A (or BPA), causes genetic damage in mice. So although I plan on exclusively breastfeeding, I purchased a few glass baby bottles for those times I may choose to pump and leave the baby with his daddy. I'm also slowly moving toward storing leftovers in glass mason jars and I've purchased a stainless steel water bottle for my eight cups a day.

An exhaustive study into the toxins found in newborn babies by the Environmental Working Group can be found here. In it the authors state: "Of the 287 chemicals we detected in umbilical cord blood, we know that 180 cause cancer in humans or animals, 217 are toxic to the brain and nervous system, and 208 cause birth defects or abnormal development in animal tests." It's pretty scary that this poisoning takes place before the baby even leaves the womb.

I realize that I can't shield my family from all or maybe even most of the chemical contaminants in our environment. But I do think we can reduce our risk of cancer and other health problems by making informed decisions about what to eat, drink, wear, sleep on, clean with, and store our food in.

And while it's too expensive and overwhelming to make all the changes I'd like to make at once, I hope to make better choices the next time we need to replace things. My goal is to pass this awareness on to the baby so that living consciously becomes a no-brainer for future generations.


  • I linked to your blog through your Motheringdotcom profile. I was just laughing because as I was waiting for your blog to load my husband was asking if I had gotten the address of some jerks that are constantly burning their trash at night, which is illegal in our city limits, and I said of course I did, what a bunch of a-holes pumping toxins into my house. Last night I had to shut my bedroom window because it was blowing right in my window. Then I went on to complain about "I'm working so hard to rid our house of toxins, switching to baking soda for cleaner, etc. and these guys are burning freaking keyboards or something over there..." And then your contamination investigation popped up. I thought it was funny, maybe ironic, though I'm never good at identifying irony.

    By Anonymous emerald, at 11:36 PM  

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