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Greenmom’s Guide to a Low Toxin Pregnancy

We all know that we are exposed to toxin cocktails everyday.  Having tested Canadians from coast to coast, Environmental Defence's Toxic Nation reports that toxic chemicals were found in every baby, child and adult that they tested.  "It is alarming, however, that there were several cases where the children in the study were more polluted than their parents by chemicals that are still in use." (Toxic Nation Studies, "Family Group Results." Environmental Defence.)

The good news is there are ways of protecting our children as early as in utero during pregnancy.  Here are some ways of having a low-toxin pregnancy:

1.     Eat organic foods and choose hormone-free and antibiotic-free meats and dairy products. 

We can avoid passing on chemicals through our placenta by choosing organic foods whenever possible.  In the Toxic Nation Studies, the tested families were found to have high levels of organophosphorous (OP) pesticides.  These pesticides kill insects by disrupting their nervous systems; I can't imagine ingesting fruits and vegetables that have been sprayed with nerve-disruptors as healthy for human consumption.  If the bugs don't want them, neither do we. It is also best to choose hormone-free and antibiotic-free meats. While banned in the E.U., growth-promoting hormones in beef cattle is still approved for use in the U.S. and Canada. Health Canada's position is that "Scientific research to date has not demonstrated that food products from animals treated with these hormonal growth promoters pose a threat to human health." ("Questions and Answers - Hormonal Growth Promoters."  Health Canada. 02 May 2004).

However, we lean towards caution and consider the fact that the E.U. is concerned enough about any risk that these hormones pose to people who eat hormone-enhanced beef to ban not only the use of these growth-promoting hormones but also all beef imports from the U.S. The European Union’s Scientific Committee on Veterinary Measures Relating to Public Health questions whether drug residues in the meat could affect human hormonal balance "causing developmental problems, interfering with the reproductive system, and even leading to the development of breast, prostate or colon cancer. Children, pregnant women and the unborn are thought to be most susceptible to these negative health effects" (The Scientific Committee on Veterinary Measures Relating to Public Health. “Assessment of Potential Risks to Human Health from Hormone Residues in Bovine Meat and Meat Products.” European Commission, April 30, 1999). Lastly, drink organic milk to avoid ingesting the RBGH (Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone) injected in cows to stimulate their milk production and the antiobiotics that they are given.

2.      Use synthetic-free and chemical-free bath, beauty and body products.  Remember that our skin is our largest organ and that everything we put on our skin goes into our bloodstream.  As well as our babies' too while they're inside of us.  Look at the first 3 or 4 ingredients in the product: those usually make up most of what we put on our skin, hair or face.  If you're unsure about an ingredient because it's a long word or string of words that you can't pronounce, opt out.  Or at least opt out until you can go home and check the product out on

For a quick reference, here are the top 5 offenders (from the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment):         

  Coal tar - a carcinogen, can be found in shampoos and hair dyes, and contains toxic substances such as napthalene and benzopyrene.

  Formaldehyde - a carcinogen, is a disinfectant used in nail polish, deodorant, soaps, shampoo and shaving cream.

  Phthalates (Di-exyl-hexyl phthalate) - a carcinogen, has been linked to birth defects in the male reproductive system. It can be found in nail polish, deodorant, fragrance, hairspray and lotions.

  Propylene glycol mono-t-butyl - a carcinogen, is found in nail polish and other products.

  Toluene - causes birth defects or other reproductive harm, and is found mainly in nail polish and hair dye.

3.      Use toxic-free (and fume-free) cleaners, detergents and laundry products. Use natural products like baking soda and washing soda to clean and deodorize.  Vinegar is great for mirrors and glass,  and borax is a good disinfectant. 

  Distilled white vinegar or lemon juice are also great all-around cleaners. 

  There are also great toxin-free commercial cleaning products available: Nature Clean, Dr. Bronner's and Ecover are a few of our favourite brands. 

  Choose products that have the "green seal" ( logos or the environmental choice designation (

  If you wish to mix and make your own toxin-free cleaners, you can get handy kits that give you all that you need to do just that from Eco-Me. 

  Toronto-based Soleado Casa also has some wonderful pre-mixed toxin-free cleaners. 

  Microfibre cloths are great for scrubbing and wiping too.  In the laundry, skip the heavy detergents and anti-static sheets. 

  Use baking-soda based laundry detergents and dryer balls isntead.  Chemical-based cleaners are not only bad for our health but for our environment too - they go down our drains and straight into our waters and soil.

4.      Use beeswax or soy candles.

We love the peaceful and gossamer glow of candlelight and the delicious aroma of scented candles.  But if they aren't beeswax candles then they're likely to be made from paraffin wax (which is the bottom-of-the-barrel by-product of refined petroleum, i.e. they won't even use this for gasoline) and industrial bleach (gives the candle that whiteness).  Burning a paraffin candle in your home is akin to burning diesel oil and inhaling its fumes and soot.  Totally yucky, yes, but more so, totally toxic as the soot releases carcinogens and air contaminants like toluene, benzene, methyl ethyl ketone (MEK), and naphthalene. 

Some paraffin candles double the whammy as they also may contain a lead core in the wick.  Scented paraffin candles may even triple the whammy if they use artifical scents.  Beeswax and Soy candles are the healthy alternatives. 

  Look for 100% beeswax and 100% soy candles (with no additives) with cotton wicks. 

  Pure beeswax has a subtle. honey aroma and is cream to honey brown in colour.  

  Naturally-filtered (not by bleach) beeswax is ivory white. 

  Soy candles are water soluble, soot-free and when scented, are scented with essential oils derived from plant extracts.

5.     Reduce aluminum exposure.

Choose stainless steel, glass or cast iron cookware, and aluminum-free deodorants and anti-perspirant and toothpaste. Magnesium deficiency also increases the risk of aluminum accumulation in our bodies, especially when we are pregnant (ALUMINUM AND HEALTH: First International Conference on METALS AND THE BRAIN, University of Padova, Italy: 20-23 September 2000).  Although not a heavy meal like lead, aluminum can be toxic in huge amounts.  We absorb aluminum through our skin, by ingesting it, and through our lungs.  While pregnant, it is best to also avoid food products that contain aluminum like baking powder, table salt and bleached flour.

6.     Choose fish carefully.

Some say avoid tuna and other fish on the ocean floor; others dispute that pregnant and nursing mothers need the fatty Omega-3 acids that fish give us.  We say that we should inform ourselves and decide which way is best for us to get our Omega-3s.  Perhaps it is by choosing seafood that contain little or no mercury like clams, rainbow trout, tilapia, or northern Canadian shrimp (for a comprehensive list of smart seafood choices, visit:; or perhaps it is by taking Omega-3 supplements.  Either way, the goal is to get the necessary Omega-3s without ingesting any mercury.

7.     Choose resin-composite fillings over amalgam fillings.

Amalgam fillings release mercury.  The Canadian Dental Association says that "there is no scientific evidence of ill effects (of amalgam fillings), although mercury is known to cross the placenta" (The Canadian Dental Association FAQs.  If possible, postpone dental work or have it done prior to your pregnancy (easier said than done for some of us!).  Alternatively, ask for composite fillings.

8.     Avoid hair-colouring products.

Chemicals in hair dyes are absorbed through our scalp and go right into our blood stream.  Many physicians advise against hair dyes during pregnancy. Check with your doctor before dyeing your hair.  While there are vegetable and plat-based dyes available in health food stores, they too contain some of the same chemicals found in non-plant-based hair dye products.

9.     Use plant-based paints when decorating your baby's room.

Traditional paint contains petrochemical derivatives which can off-gas in your home and baby's room.  Plus, you would inhale these same fumes as you happily paint in anticipation of your soon-to-be-born baby.  Plant-based paints and eco-paints are a non-toxic alternative: milk paint, mineral paint and paints with the environmental choice designation are good choices.  Remember to open all windows and to paint in a well-ventilated room even though you're using eco-paint.  And let the room vent or air out before sleeping in it too.

10. And finally, remember that -FREE is best when it comes to choosing products!
  •          Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) -free
  •          Anitbacterials/Triclosan-free
  •          Paraben-free
  •          Glycol Ether-free
  •          Phenylenediamine (PPD)- -free
  •          Coal-tar Colour-free (FD&C or D&C)
  •          Diethanolamine-free  (DEA)
  •          Formaldehyde-free
  •          Phthalate-free
  •          Mercury-free
  •          Lead-free
  •          Toluene-free
  •          Acetate-free
  •          Petrolatum-free
  •          Synthetic Fragrance-free / “Fragrance” -free
  •          Carbon-free
  •          Phthalate-free
  •          Bisphenol-A-free
  •          PVC-free
  •          “beach ball smell-free”
  •          Dye-free
  •          Toxic-free
  •          Safe & toxic-free plastics only: #2, #4, #5


  Visit the Greenmom website at

  Refer to the Environmental Defence Study on pollution in families at

View the Health Canada Report. 02 May 2004.

  Check your products on the Environmental Working Group’s Cosmetic Database at




Greenmom is a movement and a company that is dedicated to changing the world by changing the way moms and families make consumer choices. They advocate for and promote choices that benefit our families’ and our planet’s health, our local community and economy, and the people who produce these goods and services. Founding mom Monique Fabregas is an aspiring martial artist, excommunicated architect, environmentalist, breastfeeding and natural parenting advocate, outdoor enthusiast and bookworm, whose passion for ethical practices and better health for her child, her family and the environment led her to the creation of Greenmom. Together with Debra Scott (Administrator & Web Developer), Danielle Arnold (Community Coordinator), and Kelly Drennan (Communications & PR) the Greenmom team prides themselves with their high ethical standards, their dedicated efforts to move towards a safer, healthier and more sustainable tomorrow for our children.

For more information or to arrange for interviews, please contact:

Green Mom
Monique Fabregas
Phone 416-485 – 9167


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