I hesitate to tackle the topic of pregnancy and babies. For one thing, I run the risk of getting myself so delighted at the thought that I decide to go for Baby #4. On the other hand, I run the risk of exacerbating my own guilt at what I did/didn’t do when my three were babies that I should/shouldn’t have.
However, I’ll face the risks. Honestly, is there anything more powerful, more life-changing, more world-changing than bringing another life into the world? And ensuring that new life is as healthy as possible is, quite simply, a mother’s most important task.
Let’s start with some sobering statistics.
Before a baby takes his/her first breath, he/she has more than 300 chemicals in the bloodstream. Things like mercury from fish, flame retardants from household dust, hydrocarbons from fossil fuels, pesticides from produce and our own backyards…and the list goes on. The womb is a baby’s very first environment…and it’s increasingly contaminated.
Not surprising, really, given that there are currently 83,000 chemicals in use – with another half-dozen added daily. But what’s more alarming is that there is no health or safety data of 89% of these. We certainly know that some are not as benign as we may have been led to believe, such as asbestos, formaldehyde, DDT…
What can moms and moms-to-be do? Well, there’s only so much we can control, given that much of our exposure is out of our hands. But our bodies and our homes is a key starting point. And any reduction is exposure is a good thing:
Clean up your diet: A diet rich in fruits and vegetables is always a good idea, whether you’re pregnant or not. Unfortunately, pesticides often piggyback on our nutrient-rich produce, making their way into our bodies. According to the Environmental Working Group, moms-to-be can reduce their pesticide exposure by 80% by avoiding the most contaminated produce.
The so-called “Dirty Dozen” includes apples, bell peppers, celery, spinach, imported grapes, pears, nectarines, cherries, carrot, kale, lettuce and strawberries. It’s also a good idea to stick to organic meat and poultry to avoid adding hormones and antibiotics to your diet. Your hormones are probably dealing with enough at the moment…
A Greener Clean: Moms are often the quintessential germophobes, dishing out hand sanitizer and wipes with abandon, oblivious that what’s in the bottle or wipe is undoubtedly worse than anything that’s actually on their kids’ hands. Dirt is not the problem, unless Junior has been spraying RoundUp on his Fisher-Price crops. Air fresheners are another fave of moms, eager to replace that diaper smell with field-fresh daisies. But guess what? Daisies have never come anywhere near those cans or plug-in air fresheners. Environmental Defence “Toxic Nation” campaign studied the ingredients in solid, spray and oil fresheners and discovered that the products emitted more than 100 different volatile organic compounds (VOCs), such as benzene and formaldehyde. All were present in levels of exposure greater than what is considered to be safe for humans. Stick to the old stand-bys – baking soda, lemon juice, vinegar and Borax for cleaning. To make an eco-friendly air freshener, mix together a 1:1 ratio of vinegar and water and add about a dozen drops of lavender or lemon essential oils.
Don’t Mess with Mothers!: Educating ourselves is the first step toward activism. It’s important to demand a healthier world. We’re doing our part to green our bodies and our homes…but its about time governments and companies cleaned up their acts, too.