Mothers-to-be warned about exposure to chemicals
WASHINGTON — From mercury to pesticides, Americans are exposed daily to environmental chemicals that could harm reproductive health, the nation's largest groups of obstetricians and fertility specialists said on Monday.
The report urges doctors to push for stricter environmental policies to better identify and reduce exposure to chemicals that prove truly risky. But it's likely to scare pregnant women in the meantime.
That's because during the first prenatal visit, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists wants doctors to ask mothers-to-be about their exposure to different chemicals. They're supposed to teach women how to avoid some considered most worrisome during pregnancy.
“What we're trying to get is the balance between awareness and alarmist,” said Dr. Jeanne Conry, president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Specialists with ACOG and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine examined research about industrial chemicals and pollutants that people can absorb from the air, water, food and everyday products. Few chemicals hit the market with good information about safe levels — something the groups hope to change. But certain chemicals are linked to infertility, miscarriages, birth defects and other problems, the committee said.
Risks are greatest for women with high on-the-job exposure. So doctors should ask about workplaces during that first prenatal visit, the committee advised.
But the report cited research suggesting virtually every pregnant woman is exposed to at least 43 different chemicals. It's unclear how many matter, but some can reach the fetus. For example, mercury pollution builds up in certain fish and when eaten by a mother-to-be, can damage her unborn baby's developing brain.
Prenatal exposure to certain pesticides can increase the risk of childhood cancer, the report found.
Poor and minority populations are disproportionately exposed to various pollutants, urging doctors to be aware of concerns unique to where they live, the committee said.
It's not just about pregnancy. High enough pesticide exposure in adult men has been linked to sterility and prostate cancer, the report noted.
But the issues are controversial. For example, most Americans have traces of BPA, or bisphenol-A, in their urine because it's so widely used in plastics, consumer goods and to line metal food cans to prevent contamination and spoiling. Makers of baby bottles and sippy cups stopped using BPA several years ago because of consumer concern that it might harm young children's development, and the Food and Drug Administration won't let it return to those baby products. But the FDA allows BPA's use in other food containers.
For now, Conry said the consumer advice is common-sense: Choose fresh fruits and vegetables over processed foods when possible and thoroughly wash produce. Pregnant women and young children should eat certain seafood to get the nutritional benefits without the mercury risk. That means avoiding shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish. Low-mercury examples are shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon and catfish. (The FDA advises pregnant women to eat no more than 6 ounces a week of white or albacore tuna, which has more mercury than the canned light kind.) “There's only so much people can do as individuals and families to limit chemical exposures,” said University of Washington public health dean Dr. Howard Frumkin, an environmental health specialist not involved in the report. But he called the statement “a very balanced, reasonable and evidence-based contribution.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Researchers find new, elusive bird species
- 3 shot outside Texas cartoon exhibit of Muhammad artwork
- Senate: Iran deal not treaty
- Tensions ease in Baltimore as curfew lifts, schools reopen
- Missouri woman tells police she was held captive in wooden box
- Bullying bad for children’s mental health, study hints