Environmental Exposures and Health Reproduction

There is a huge “detox” industry today. With all the studies showing that exposure to certain substances, even in small amounts, over a period of time can cause cancer, illness, or early aging, we have become obsessed with avoiding and purging these chemicals from our bodies. There are many products promising to protect you from, or help you get rid of, toxins that have built up in your body from environmental exposure. Your environment can expose you to toxins in smog, paint, second-hand smoke, chemicals in plastic, and nail polish, just to name a few. We all know that we should be limiting our exposure to such things. But what about if you are pregnant?

Most toxins affect the body in relation to weight, because a lower weight results in a higher concentration of toxins. That is why a smaller person gets intoxicated faster than a larger person. A few drinks might be enough to cause a 120 lb person to be drunk, while a person who weighs over 200 lbs would likely be able to consume much more alchohol without achieving the blood alcohol concentration that prohibits him from driving, for example. Now, think of a tiny fetus inside a woman’s womb. When a little life weighs only a few ounces, it would take only the smallest amount of a toxin to cause that fetus to reach a harmful blood concentration. That is why pregnant women are advised not to drink alcohol or smoke; toxins in amounts small enough to not be noticed by the mother (at the time, remember that the effects of smoking are cumulative) can pass through the placenta and cause great harm to the fetus.

 Environmental exposure to toxins can affect a fetus as well. For example, if a woman makes the huge effort to quit smoking during pregnancy, but her partner continues to smoke, exposing her to the toxins in cigarettes on his breath, clothes, and in the atmosphere of their home, her efforts may well have been in vain, as the fetus is still exposed to dangerous chemicals.

Although studies have not been done on the effects of air pollution, such as smog, on children while in the room, it is likely that breathing in toxic chemical in smog is just as unhealthy as breathing in toxic chemicals from other sources. Not only would a pregnant woman be more likely to faint during a smog warning, but she may be harming her baby by venturing outside, as well!

Pregnant woman are also advised to avoid using certain cleaners and aerosol sprays when pregnant. The fumes from these cleaners or air fresheners are easily breathed in, and the toxins expose a fetus to danger. A woman can avoid this by keeping her home environment free of such chemicals.

Men are not free of risk when it comes to environmental exposure to chemicals and reproduction. Male exposure to carcinogens can cause reproductive DNA to fragment, resulting in an increased risk of birth defects in their offspring. So, not only can smoking potentially cause impotents (as the warnings of cigarette packages will tell you) they may also cause birth defects in your children should you manage to get your reproductive parts to function! 

Studies indicate that the healthiest thing for both men and women to do when trying to conceive (and when carrying the baby!) is to limit their exposure to toxins just as much as they would limit the newborn infant’s expoosure. It’s the best thing to do for your child!