Exposure to certain chemicals and pollutants may have an effect on your health.
- Many chemicals found in the home, workplace, and outside can be harmful to fertility and pregnancy.
- Some chemicals can affect the quantity and quality of sperm. They can also influence male sexual performance, including the ability to achieve or maintain erections.
- For women, exposure to harmful chemicals can change hormone balances and, in some cases, lead to infertility.
Some environmental toxins can also have impacts on pregnancy outcomes.
- They may increase the risk of low birth weight, preterm birth, and birth defects.
- They may interfere with the normal development of the child, including possible effects on the child’s behavior and ability to learn.
Things you may want to avoid, or use with caution, include:
- Plastic food storage containers, household items or toys that are not phthalate-free or PVC-free (Polyvinyl chloride).
- Choose glass or stainless steel food and beverage containers.
- Avoid using plastic containers in the microwave or to store hot foods or drinks.
- Be cautious of plastic household items that give off a strong smell when new (shower curtains, tablecloths). Use products made of cloth instead.
- Choose toys made of natural materials (wood, cotton) or from safer plastics - some may be labelled as phthalate-free or PVC-free or bear the recycling symbol numbers 1, 2, 4 or 5.
- Cleaning products with ammonia, bleach, and turpentine.
- Use baking soda for scrubbing tubs, sinks and pots, or vinegar mixed with water for cleaning windows, floors and other surfaces.
- Lead from water service pipes, old leaded paint and crafts.
- Use lead-free products for hobbies.
- Prevent pest infestations in the home using non-toxic pest control measures.
- Don’t enter an area that has been sprayed with pesticides until it is safe to do so.
- Wash all fruits and vegetables.
- Foods that contain mercury or other harmful substances.
- Avoid fish containing high levels of mercury.
- Avoid foods that may cause listeriosis.
- Limit caffeine.
It is best to avoid renovation projects when you are, or may be, pregnant.
If a renovation project must be done, here are some suggestions:
- Avoid oil-based paints and thinners. Use latex (water-based) paint and low-VOC (volatile organic compound) paint or VOC-free paint instead.
- Avoid sanding old paint that may contain lead.
- Ensure that the work area is sealed off from the rest of the house and ensure good ventilation.
- After the work is done, make sure that all dust is thoroughly cleaned up and the space is aired out until no fumes remain.
Other helpful tips to minimize the risks of harmful substances in and around your home include:
- Airing out new plastic items before using.
- Dusting or mopping your home frequently to remove toxic chemicals that settle into dust.
- Removing shoes at the door.
- Choosing clothing that does not require dry cleaning or using a dry cleaner that does not use solvents.
- Limiting exposure to manufactured fragrances.
- Checking your home for mould.
- Ventilating your home, especially when cleaning or to remove fumes from paint or other products.
- Reducing activity outdoors during Air Quality Index advisories.
- Testing your home for radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas that can build up to harmful levels in indoor air.
Substances in the workplace may be harmful. If you are working outside the home and planning a pregnancy:
- Check with your workplace health and safety advisor, occupational health nurse, or doctor about any potential risks. Risks can include the effect of heat on fertility and the effects of prolonged standing and strenuous activity during pregnancy.
- Check the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) of the chemicals you work with.
- Ensure that workplace health and safety practices and procedures are followed.
- Wear appropriate protection (e.g., gloves, mask) when using chemical products.
- If needed, discuss alternative work assignments to avoid exposures.
- Wash your hands well after using chemical products and before eating or drinking.
For more information:
- Canadian Partnership for Children’s Health & Environment - Creating Healthy Home Environments for Kids - Top 5 Tips.
- Canadian Partnership for Children’s Health & Environment - Fragrances.
- Canadian Partnership for Children’s Health & Environment - Renovate Right.
- Health Canada - Radon.
- Motherisk Helpline – 1-877-439-2744.
- Workers Health and Safety Centre – 1-888-869-7950.