News

Doctors Fail To Counsel Pregnant Women On Toxic Chemical Risks

Doctors Fail To Counsel Pregnant Women On Toxic Chemical Risks

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.

About Seattle Children’s

Seattle Children’s mission is to provide hope, care and cures to help every child live the healthiest and most fulfilling life possible. Together, Seattle Children’s Hospital, Research Institute and Foundation deliver superior patient care, identify new discoveries and treatments through pediatric research, and raise funds to create better futures for patients.

Ranked as one of the top children’s hospitals in the country by U.S. News & World Report, Seattle Children’s serves as the pediatric and adolescent academic medical center for Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho – the largest region of any children’s hospital in the country. As one of the nation’s top five pediatric research centers, Seattle Children’s Research Institute is internationally recognized for its work in neurosciences, immunology, cancer, infectious disease, injury prevention and much more. Seattle Children’s Hospital and Research Foundation works with the Seattle Children’s Guild Association, the largest all-volunteer fundraising network for any hospital in the country, to gather community support and raise funds for uncompensated care and research. Join Seattle Children’s bold initiative – It Starts With Yes: The Campaign for Seattle Children’s – to transform children’s health for generations to come.

For more information, visit seattlechildrens.org or follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or on our On the Pulse blog.