You've probably heard all about how you should avoid exposure to paint and other harsh chemicals when you are pregnant. However, have you ever thought to avoid your household cleaners that you regularly use in your home? While common sense would dictate that these cleaners could be just as harmful as other chemical toxins, because we use these cleaners so regularly, it is easy to overlook the harmful affects that they can have on our bodies. And since women are often the main cleaners in their homes, we are the ones who risk the most exposure to these toxins.
Most experts recognize that prolonged exposure to chemical cleaning products can have detrimental effects on a fetus. However, very little research has been conducted on household cleaners and their effects on a pregnancy, so it is difficult to say for sure just how harmful they can be. The few studies that have been done on cleaners, though, paint an unhappy picture.
Backing up the findings of an Australian study done in August in 2004, a British study published in December 2004 proved a link between exposure to household cleaners during pregnancy and asthma in children. Researchers found that those households that used the most chemical-based cleaning products during pregnancy were two times more likely to have children with asthma.
As troubling as these results can be, it is important to remember that no household cleaner has yet to be recognized as a cause of birth defects. However, it doesn't hurt to err on the side of caution and take some precautionary measures when you know you will be exposed to chemicals.
Minimize your risk of exposure to toxic chemicals by following these guidelines:
Some cleaners that you may want to avoid, or at least approach with caution, include:
- Always read the labels of your cleaners and avoid any that are marked as toxic
- Always clean in a well ventilated area
- Since some chemicals can be absorbed through the skin, so it is a good idea to wear rubber gloves when cleaning
- Consider using alternative cleaning solutions like baking soda or vinegar
- Use a pump spray instead of an aerosol if you can; a pump spray creates less of a vapor cloud and therefore fewer fumes
- Window Cleaners
- Carpet Cleaners
- Air Fresheners
Unlike household cleaners, pesticides and insecticides have been linked to birth defects, especially with exposure during the first trimester. Therefore, it is important to minimize your exposure to pesticides, including household gardening pesticides, and insecticides, including those used indoors, whenever possible. However, before you lose sleep fretting about your exposure to chemicals after putting o your dog's flea collar, keep in mind that the real risk arises from intense or prolonged exposure to the chemicals.
If you can't avoid the use of pesticides in your home, then follow these guidelines to keep yourself and your baby safe:
Although bug sprays containing DEET are extremely effective at keeping the bugs away, they have not been properly evaluated for safety during pregnancy. Therefore, you should avoid applying the bug repellant directly onto your skin where it can be absorbed. Instead, apply it to your clothing. Use gloves or an applicator so the spray doesn't get on to your hands.
- Have someone else apply the pesticide. Leave the area for the duration of time specified on the package
- Keep your home well ventilated when you use the chemicals indoors. If you are using it outside, then keep your windows closed and turn off your air conditioner so that the fumes don't get drawn into your home
- Always thoroughly clean any area where food is prepared before using after chemicals have been applied in the area
- When you are gardening, always wear protective clothing and gloves to minimize your exposure to plants that have been treated with pesticides. Additionally, this will help reduce your risk of contracting a toxoplasmosis infection from the soil.
When it's time to clean your house or do some gardening, pass the mop and the garden spade to your partner and put your feet up. It is for the health of your baby, after all.