New British Recommendations for Pregnant Women
In May 2013, Britain’s the British Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) recommended that pregnant and nursing women minimize or eliminate their use of canned and plastic wrapped food and commercial household and beauty products. Thus in addition to avoiding prescription drugs and shellfish, pregnant and nursing women should avoid processed food and the use of commercial personal care products such as sunscreens, moisturizers, fragrances, shower gels, hair sprays and shampoo. The RCOG also strongly cautions against the use of commercially manufactured baby lotions, powders and shampoos, as they commonly contain phthalates.
The RCOG published their recommendations in a scientific impact paper titled Chemical Exposures During Pregnancy. Unfortunately American women missed out on these important recommendations, as the US corporate media gave it a miss.
Already Implicated in Cancer and Infertility
British obstetricians are chiefly concerned about the endocrine disruptors contained in these products. An endocrine disruptor is a chemical with the potential to interfere with one or more hormone systems in the body. Obviously women’s hormone systems play critical roles in normal fetal development. Endocrine disruptors that behave like estrogens (female hormones) are already implicated in epidemic levels of breast and prostate cancer and infertility (i.e. low sperm counts). See Buyer Beware: Are Americans Systematically Poisoning Themselves. They’re also linked to birth defects.
The Precautionary Principle
The beauty industry is a multibillion dollar global business, and the British obgyns are a lot more courageous than their American counterparts. I’m still waiting for the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists to challenge the Susan G Komen Foundation for allowing Avon, which refuses to sign the Compact for Safe Cosmetics, to hijack their Pink Ribbon Campaign for breast cancer research (see The Corporatization of Breast Cancer).
The RCOG justifies their position based on the growing body of research linking common chemical exposures to birth defects and developmental problems. Thus following the Precautionary Principle, British obstetricians argue that use of these products should be minimized or eliminated until they are proven safe.
The main chemicals that concern the RCOG are
- DDT and PCBs (currently banned in the US, these chemicals continue to be used in the third world and persist in the food chain, particularly in oily fish). Recommendation: pregnant and nursing women should reduce their intake of oily fish to no more than once a week.
- Phthalates and bisphenol A (found in plastic containers, the lining of cans and numerous personal care products). Recommendation: eliminate or greatly reduce consumption of food and beverages sold in cans or plastic containers and use of commercially manufactured sunscreens, moisturizers, fragrances, shower gels, hair sprays and shampoos.
- Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDES) used in flame retardants and perfluorinated compounds (PFCS) used to make materials waterproof and stain-resistant. Recommendation: pregnant and nursing women avoid purchasing new furniture, fabrics, non-stick frying pans and automobiles
The impact paper also recommends avoiding the following substances:
- Over the counter pain killers
- Chemical insecticides and fungicides (e.g. products that kill mold)
- Liver and other sources of Vitamin A (Vitamin A toxicity in the fetus can also cause birth defects)
For women (and men concerned about cancer and maintaining their sperm count) who need alternatives to commercial household and beauty products, it’s amazingly simple (and cheap) to produce safe and effective homemade alternatives with a food processor and traditional ingredients such as baking soda, vinegar, bar soap and calcium carbonate. I will post some easy recipes next week.
photo credit: Espen Klem via photopin cc