As a pediatrician, I knew that the link between environmental dangers and the many cases of chronic illness in my patients was important, but the magnitude of the situation really hit home when I saw the preliminary results of an umbilical cord blood study conducted by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), in which I was fortunate to participate.
In this study, we examined the umbilical cord blood of ten babies born in August and September of 2004 in U.S. hospitals. We found a total of 287 different industrial chemicals circulating through the body of the newborns. These babies each carried an average of 200 chemicals, which included mercury, fire retardants, and pesticides. The report states, “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.”2 (See Appendix A for a table of the chemicals.)
What are they doing to human babies at the detected levels? Some of them (mercury, for instance), we know cause harm. But for the most part, we don’t know. No one has done the required study yet.
Nevertheless, this small preliminary study suggests something very important: We are the environment; there is no separation. If a chemical is “out there” it may also be “in here,” in the most protected inner sanctum of our bodies. And the presence of these chemicals in umbilical cord blood demands more research into what this means for babies. In the meantime, this report gives us further motivation to go green before your precious child is even born.
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