Someday, we’ll look at endocrine disrupting chemicals the way we look at asbestos, lead paint, or cigarette smoke. We’ll be amazed we ever had that stuff in our homes, exposed to our children.
That day hasn’t come yet though. Scientists are scared of endocrine disrupting chemicals, but many people don’t even know about them. They don’t know about the risks. These chemicals are in your home, your blood, and if you don’t take precautions, your children will be exposed.
So what are they? Endocrine disrupting chemicals are things like BPA, phthalates, PFAS, and microplastics. They're in a ton of common consumer products. They all mess with the bodies' natural balance of hormones. The consequences to children in the womb can be very serious.
Your baby is forming the most important parts of their body during the first six months of your pregnancy. Hormones are like the buttons and levers that pulls your baby's development forward or backwards. Anything that disrupts those hormones is very toxic. Prenatal exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals can lead to lifelong harm.
How Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals Could Hurt Your Baby
BPA leads to weight gain for your baby and you. In adults, very high BPA levels are linked to 15% more body fat. But BPA is much worse during pregnancy. Prenatal exposure to BPA makes it more likely a child will have lower IQ, asthma, and behavior problems like ADHD, hyperactivity, and poor emotional control.
Phthalates are very bad for young boys. Phthalates lower testosterone. That means if boys are exposed in the womb they can have smaller penises or genital deformities and lower fertility when they grow up and try to start a family.
PFAS goes by many names: PFTE, PFOA, PFCs. No matter what you call it, it's a nasty 'forever chemical', that sticks around for decades in any environment, including your body. It's an endocrine disruptor, so it's been linked to IQ loss and weight gain. However, it also has strong links to cancer.
Scientists aren’t sure about what microplastics do to kids, but they’re pretty sure it’s not good. Babies in the womb have microplastics floating in there with them as they develop. Babies are heavily exposed. As one scientist put it, “babies are being born pre-polluted”.
All of these chemicals are probably in your home and your body right now. The science is clear they pose a threat to a healthy pregnancy. But you can take simple and effective steps to protect your unborn child!
We’ve made this list of six steps you can take to have a safe pregnancy and protect your baby. The first three are the most important. Number 3 is extremely important if you’re having a boy.
Six steps you can take to protect your unborn child
1. Use Safe Food Storage
Plastic is not safe. You probably know that plastic is made out of oil and that you don’t want to eat it. What you may not know is that a little bit of plastic gets into your food when you use saran wrap, ziploc bags, or plastic tupperware. This is especially true when you heat up plastic in the microwave.
Plastic releases far more bad stuff when you heat it up in the microwave or dishwasher. Think about it: plastic was made from oil by heating it up and then cooling it down, so what happens when you heat it up again?
Hard plastic has BPA in it. Soft plastic has phthalates. They both shed microplastics.
So what can you do? Try to avoid storing your food in plastic. If you do, transfer it to ceramic or glass when you heat it up in the microwave. Ceramic and glass are both pure and safe. Toss out old plastic containers that have gone through many trips in the dishwasher and have become ‘cloudy.’ That means they’re breaking down and leaking plastic into your food.
This is the single most important step you can take.
2. Limit takeout and fast food
People who eat more takeout and fast food have more endocrine disrupting chemicals in their bloodstream. Sometimes they have way more. This is because restaurants rarely take precautions to store or prepare their food safely.
It’s much better to prepare food at home. Plus, it saves you money and it’s almost always more nutritious. Food chains regularly take shortcuts to get maximum taste. They pack in as much unhealthy (but tasty) stuff they can. They rarely pay attention to calories. Unfortunately, they also don’t pay attention to hidden chemicals. Better to cook at home when you’re pregnant.
3. Avoid artificial fragrances and toxic makeup
Companies use phthalates to create and lock in artificial fragrances. When you use cosmetics with an artificial fragrance like shampoo, moisturizer, or makeup, it seeps into your skin and then into your body.
Phthalates are bad for males, especially boys in utero. Exposure can lead to health issues that will last for the rest of their lives. Your makeup cabinet is the main way they’ll be exposed.
Unfortunately phthalates don’t have to be labeled. They’re often listed under “fragrance” on a bottle. If you want safe products, there’s a couple of things you can look for:
- Anything unscented
- A product with a scent that comes from botanical extracts or "essential oils." That’s just a fancy way of saying it has a scent that comes from actual flowers.
- Look for a label that says “phthalate or paraben free” or “USDA organic.”
If it has any of those three things, it’s safe. If you’re not sure, don’t use it. It's probably better to use less makeup in general while you're pregnant and rely on your natural glow (It's real, we can all see it). That goes double if you're having a boy.
Most products that you use in the bathroom come with a fragrance, and most of the time it’s an unnatural fragrance. It's better to stay safe.
4. Check your water
Tap water can contain something nasty called “PFAS”. Some cities are polluted with it, some aren’t. PFAS is especially bad because it’s a “forever chemical”, meaning once it gets in a place it stays there. This is different from BPA or phthalates. If you stop exposure to those they’ll flush out of your body in 48 hours.
Because PFAS sticks around, it could be in your tap water. You can check by having your water tested for it. Better still, ask your neighbors on Nextdoor. Chances are someone nearby has done it already.
If your water is contaminated the best solution is to use a reverse osmosis water filter. It will give you ultra-pure water that's free of PFAS and anything else. A countertop filter like Brita will help if you can’t set up a reverse osmosis system right now.
5. Avoid dust
Dust is one of the dangers that surprised me the most when I first started learning about endocrine disrupting chemicals. A really surprising amount of nasty stuff is in household dust. It makes sense when you think about it though: a ton of modern products are made with plastic. When that plastic sheds, where does it go? Dust.
Sweeping and dusting your house keeps you clean and safe. Ideally, vacuum with a HEPA filter, but if you do, don’t change the filter. When you’re pregnant, you shouldn’t change kitty litter boxes or clean out vacuum cleaners. Get someone who’s not pregnant to do it for you.
6. Check your pots and pans
Non-stick pots and pans become ‘non-stick’ because they’re lined with PFAS. PFAS is really good at repelling water, which means that it’s often in fast food and takeout wrappers, along with non-stick pots and pans.
Stainless steel and cast iron are both 100% safe. You don’t have to worry about any pots or pans made with those.
If you have brand new non-stick pots and pans they’re probably also safe. However, once your pots and pans start chipping and scratching, toss them. I know that’s financially hard to do, but they’ll start heavily leaking PFAS once the ‘non-stick’ seal breaks.
If you have more questions you can reach out to us on Facebook. Sometimes we're a little slow to respond, but we will get back to you. If you need personal tips on how to stay safe while pregnant, we’ll make time for you.
If you know anyone else who’s pregnant or trying to conceive, please make sure they know about endocrine disrupting chemicals. I didn’t know about them back when my wife was pregnant, and I wish I had. Everyone deserves a chance to make an informed decision about this stuff. Share with your friends if you think they should know:
I know this can all feel scary, but I believe in you. If you read to the end of this article that shows you care. Caring will keep your little one happy and healthy as they grow. Parenting is very hard work, but it’s also the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. I’m sure you’ll feel that way too. I wish you all the best in the world.