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March 23, 2018  |  Login
Chemicals Found in Newborns
Toxins from home products go beyond skin deep
By Beth Huxta

A recent study finds toxins in unborn babies’ blood, confirming that contaminant contact starts early, and adds further proof we’re walking around in a chemical cloud. But by better understanding product labels and ingredients, and by following some simple advice, you can diminish your baby’s and your own body’s burden of pollutants.

Inside the womb, there’s more passing between mother and baby than nutrients, blood, and oxygen. A recent study by the Environmental Working Group (see chart below) found industrial and household pollutants in the umbilical cord blood of ten infants, with an average of 200 chemicals present in each newborn; the researchers also reported that contaminants can cross the placental barrier as easily as residues from cigarettes and alcohol. These toxins—some banned or highly restricted in the U.S.—ranged from industrial byproducts and emissions from burning gasoline, garbage, and coal, to chemicals found in household products such as pesticides, solvents, and cleaners.

Health Impacts
For fetuses and infants, exposure to these toxins is far more critical and can cause more damage than in an adult. This can be  due to pound-to-pound ratios, undeveloped detoxification and defense systems, and an immature blood-brain barrier among other reasons. A study by the National Academy of Sciences suggests that early exposure can contribute to at least 28 percent of childhood health problems such as asthma, birth defects, brain damage, and cancer, and behavioral issues including ADD, ADHD, and Autism. Entering the world pre-polluted can lead to other concerns later in life, such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer’s, as more and more toxins accumulate in our bodies.

Environmental Working Group Results


Chemicals Found in Newborns

Understanding Product Labels
If you know what you’re buying and how to use it correctly, you can avoid further harm to yourself, your baby, and the environment. Here’s some practical advice from the folks at the EPA’s Consumer Labeling Initiative:


  • Know the signal words. “Danger,” “Warning” and “Caution” all have different meanings on a label. “Danger,” which can appear with the skull and cross bones symbol, is used for a highly toxic agent that can be corrosive, easily flammable, or poisonous—basically all-kinds-of hazardous. “Warning” means moderately toxic, and “Caution” stands for mildly toxic. Expectant mothers and parents would be best advised to avoid all these signal words.

  • Know the ingredients. If a product doesn’t cite ingredients, reconsider purchasing it. You can probably guess what an “active ingredient” is—the stuff that does the work to kill bugs or sanitize—but what about the “inert ingredients”? These components can be added fragrances, solvents, detergents, emulsifiers, etc., and only the percentages are required on the label, not their identities, though some are more hazardous than the active ingredients and can constitute 99 percent of the product.

  • Follow directions (easier said than done). Check out the label on a spray bottle of Lysol disinfectant, for example. Instructions are different if you intend to disinfect, sanitize, remove mold or fungi, or simply deodorize. To disinfect, for example, the label says to spray, then let stand for 10 minutes, but for non-porous, hard surfaces, you need to let stand then rinse thoroughly.

  • Never use more than the label recommends. If you’re using a fertilizer, your plants won’t be twice as fertile if you use twice the fertilizer, and the excess, unused chemicals can wash into waterways and pollute groundwater.
  • If the label says use gloves and protective clothing, use gloves and protective clothing! This one is commonly overlooked.

  • Always keep a chemical product in its original container. A child might find an unlabeled container and have a taste, and without the original packaging, you will not have emergency aid information. more
Body Burden — The Pollution in Newborns, Parts 1-4 + Frequently Asked Questions

Why Read Labels?

Environmental Working Group analysis of tests of 10 umbilical cord blood samples conducted by AXYS Analytical Services (Sydney, BC) and Flett Research Ltd. (Winnipeg, MB), .

Dr. Christy Russell-Shae
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