The news caused a right hoo haa last week for anyone who is or who has been pregnant – it was reported that chemicals are dangerous and bad for our babies and we are risking our baby’s health by exposing ourselves to the chemicals around us.
However, the criticism against this report – by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) – was that there is no conclusive evidence of what harm these chemicals can cause to pregnant women, so what was the point of the report because all it has done is cause anxiety and fear.
Having read the RCOG report – it clearly states that: “under normal lifestyle and dietary conditions, the level of exposure to individual environmental chemicals will probably pose minimal risk to the developing fetus.”
It also admits: “obtaining more definitive guidance is likely to take many years: there is considerable uncertainty about the risks of chemical exposure.”
RCOG states that the purpose of the Chemical Exposures During Pregnancy report is “to raise awareness of the current issues surrounding chemical exposure during pregnancy and breastfeeding so that women are armed with sufficient facts to enable them to make an informed decision about chemical exposure throughout their pregnancy.”
In its basic form, the report is raising awareness of the issue of how many chemicals we have in our life, albeit at low levels, and that, really, we don’t truly know the effect this is having on us and our babies.
According to RCOG the following steps will help to reduce chemical exposure:
- Eat fresh food rather than processed foods
- Reduce food and drinks contained/stored in cans and plastic containers
- Minimise use or products such as moisturisers, cosmetics, shower gels and perfumes
- Minimise purchase of newly produced furniture, fabric, non-stick frying pans and cars when pregnant or breastfeeding
- Avoid the use of garden/house/pet pesticides such as fly sprays, flower sprays and flea powder
- Avoid paint fumes
- Only take over the counter medicines
The report made some interesting points:
- Manufacturers of cosmetics and personal care products do not have to declare exactly what is in their products:: current legislation means that manufacturers are not required to name all potentially harmful chemicals in the ingredients list if they are not considered as an active ingredient.
- The use of the terms natural, non-toxic and green on packaging is unregulated
- Examination of 43 products which claimed they were free of chemicals were found to have 5 different phthalates, which were not mentioned on the ingredients list
The report aimed to “highlight the limitations of product labelling and to demonstrate how women may be led to assume a product is ‘safe’ to use during pregnancy”
To me, it is very unlike RCOG as their information is usually driven by evidence and it would seem that RCOG is concerned about the combination of chemicals that pregnant women can be exposed to, when we assume that most chemicals – especially the ones that might be used in moisturisers and body creams – are safe to use and it wants women to think about how much they are exposed to during pregnancy and when they are breastfeeding.
Now that I have read the report, RCOG was raising awareness of the insufficient evidence available about the potential effect that combinations of chemicals could have on our unborn babies and recommends a safety first attitude when it comes to things such as food, creams, household chemicals and furniture. This all could be seen as fairly sensible advice and I wish it had been reported in a more intelligent and a less alarmist way and I wonder if RCOG are shocked at the coverage and the criticism levelled against them.
We can’t live in a bubble and chemicals are, to some degree, a part of our lives but we can take a more informed view of this and avoid certain items if we feel safer doing so. Personally, I am all for reducing the amount of chemicals I expose my children and myself to and this report has made me think…