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Insecticides and Cleaning Products During Pregnancy

By: Rachel Newcombe - Updated: 1 Jun 2012 | comments*Discuss
Insecticides Clean Cleaner Cleaning

Now you’re pregnant there’s so much to think about, but the chances are you may not have taken much notice of what cleaning products you use or given insecticides a second thought. But perhaps you should.

Research into the effects of insecticides is a bit thin on the ground still but, as in the case of pesticides, it’s possible that the chemicals may be harmful to you and your baby.

A French study published in the Occupational and Environmental Journal found that exposure to insecticides in the home and garden during pregnancy and early childhood, including insecticidal shampoos, appeared to tally with an increased risk of developing childhood leukaemia. It sounds worrying, but the exact agent in the products that may cause the danger hasn’t been completely identified and many experts believe a lot more research needs to be carried out before this can be fully verified.

If insecticides are used in your home, you can keep yourself and your baby safe by:

  • Asking someone else to apply the product for you. Leave the area for as long as possible, and following the guidance on the product, so you’re not exposed to it.
  • If you do have to apply it yourself, always were protective gloves and clothing.
  • If the insecticide is being used inside then ensure your home is well ventilated.
  • If the insecticide is being used outside, then shut all your windows and doors and stay inside, so any fumes remain outside and away from you.
  • If insecticides have been used inside your home, particularly in a kitchen area, always ensure all the surfaces where you prepare food have been thoroughly wiped down to remove any traces of chemicals.

Cleaning Products

There are mixed views about household cleaning products. There’s been limited research into their effects on pregnancy and, in general, they’re regarded as being okay to use, as long as you do so safely. One study did discover a link between exposure to cleaning products during pregnancy and an increased risk of children being affected by asthma, but no products have been specifically linked with birth defects or other serious problems.

Many women do choose to err on the side of caution though and there are certain ingredients in products that it’s worth avoiding or taking care with. For example:

  • Triclosan, an antibacterial agent, as it may end up in your breast milk after being inhaled.
  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VCO), chemicals which are found in all sorts of household cleaning products. They release pollutants when being used and some forms may cause problems for your growing baby.
  • Alkylphenol Ethoxylates, as they can disrupt and even mimic human hormones, and may affect your pregnancy.
If you do have to use cleaning products, especially heavy duty ones, then take care not to breathe in the products and open windows and doors when you’re using them. If you want to keep yourself and your baby as safe and well as possible, you can survive – and still retain a clean house – by opting for natural alternatives instead, or getting someone else to do your cleaning. For the adventurous, you can also go one step further by mixing up your own alternatives using easily available ingredients.

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