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The latest study from the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health on creepy chemicals creeping into the womb suggests that babies exposed to high levels of pesticides while in the womb may have learning problems later. Pregnant mothers today often ask themselves as they ingest the food they know will nourish their baby, this is healthy, right? I’m out of the house while pest control sprays the house so I’m okay, right? Sadly, this is probably not the case. Another study done by the University of California San Francisco confirmed after studying 163 different chemicals, pregnant women carry numerous chemicals in their bodies, even hazardous ones that have been banned in the United States for decades. Read on to find out how you can protect your baby-to-be.

Both studies have proven that many chemicals do pass down to fetuses and that there is a link to developmental problems in young children. The researchers stress the need for a change in policy-making decisions regarding chemicals in common household products, but in the meantime, you can reduce your exposure to toxic chemicals by changing pest control and cleaning habits.

After following the 350 women mothers and their children for three years, the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health study showed that those with the highest exposures before birth were three times more likely to have problems with cognitive development. The children averaged 4 points lower on intelligence tests. The population studied was in the urban center of New York City, where it is common for families to be exposed to roach and rat pesticides. In this study, pyrethroids and piperonyl butoxide were examined, which are found in household pesticides that kill pests like fleas and roaches

Researchers are concerned that the chemicals found in pregnant women are known hazardous contaminants that could interrupt fetal development, including cell mutations that later down the road could lead to birth defects, and poor brain development. Surprising results were the connection between even lower levels of pesticide exposure and the poor development of children around 36 months, according to lead researcher Megan Horton, a postdoctoral research fellow at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health in New York City.

Another recent study on pregnant women and their children showed contamination from numerous chemicals determined hazardous and banned for use in products used in the United States — 46 chemicals out of the 163 tested like PCBs, a group of environmental pollutants long known for their cancer-causing effects. Out of the 250 tested women in the University of California study, 99 to 100 percent of the women showed contamination.

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Researchers say these new studies should not in any way give new mothers an idea they should stop breastfeeding. Breast milk is still the best form of nutrition and some studies have shown that breastfeeding can counter some of the harmful effects often seen after exposure to PCBs in the womb, according to Sarah Janssen, MD, senior scientist on the UCSF study.

Chemical contamination has been a known factor in the average American life for decades, but few studies have been conducted on pregnant women. Regarding the pesticides her team studied, Horton said, “To our knowledge, no previous studies have investigated the developmental toxicity of low level exposure.”

“One can reduce exposure to these compounds by opting for less toxic forms of pest management,”said Horton.

  • Seal any routes of entry for pests including cracks and crevices
  • Repair water damage
  • Store food in sealed containers
  • Use a trash can with a lid and a bag and disposing of garbage frequently
  • Lay low toxicity pesticide gels and/or using bait trap