Doctors Fail To Counsel Pregnant Women On Toxic Chemical Risks
June 30, 2014
Source - Huffington Post
When Penelope Jagessar Chaffer became pregnant, her obstetrician warned her to avoid alcohol, cigarettes and mercury-laden tuna. Dangers posed to her unborn child by industrial chemicals such as flame retardants, pesticides and plastics, however, never came up. "No one told me anything about any of this stuff," said Jagessar Chaffer, 44, a documentary filmmaker and children's environmental health advocate. She said it was the same story with all of her pregnancies. "I wasn't being empowered." As Jagessar Chaffer taught herself while carrying her first child, dozens of environmental chemicals can course through a pregnant woman's body, cross the umbilical cord and wreck havoc on a developing fetus. Birth defects, IQ losses and childhood cancers are just some of the potential risks scientists have now tied to even low levels of exposure. Despite these high stakes, Jagessar Chaffer's prenatal care experience is more or less the norm, according to a national survey that gauged obstetricians' stances on counseling pregnant patients about environmental health hazards. To address this, Dr. Sheela Sathyanarayana, a pediatric environmental health expert at Seattle Children's Research Institute, proposed tailoring information on a patient-by-patient basis. A family's income may determine whether or not replacing furniture filled with flame retardant is a realistic option -- and therefore worth addressing in a doctor's office -- while a family's geographical location might point to local hazards such as agricultural pesticides or highway exhaust. "Different people have different sources of exposure," said Sathyanarayana, who authored a 2012 paper with suggestions for doctors counseling pre-conception and prenatal patients on environmental exposures.