Mothers Exposed to Cleaning Chemicals Could Have Baby Boys With Genital Defects

Pregnant women who use cleaning products that contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals could give birth to baby boys with genital defects, according to a new study conducted by researchers in southern France.

In addition to cleansers, detergents, pesticides and cosmetics could pose a risk if they contain phthalates, BPA (bisphenol-A), polychlorinated compounds, organic solvents, synthetic fragrances and other chemical compounds that mimic the natural reproductive hormones people normally produce.

After examining more than 600 children, the researchers found that babies exposed in utero to endocrine-disrupting chemicals while their genitals were developing were more like to suffer from a deformity called hypospadias. Hypospadias is a condition in which the opening of the urethra develops on the underside of the penis rather than the tip. The urethra is the tube that connects the urinary bladder to the outside of the body. In males, the urethra transports semen during sexual intercourse. It also is the way urine flows out of the body. Depending on its severity, the defect can cause problems with urination and later in life, sexual activity.

Fortunately, about 70 percent of deformities are relatively mild. However, fixing it can require surgery.

This isn’t the first time scientists have found a link between certain chemicals and hypospadias, reports Environmental Health News. Mothers in southeast England who were heavily exposed to endocrine disrupting phthalates on the job were about three times as likely to have a baby boy with hypospadias.  And in 2010, Italian researchers found that among 160 mothers, those who worked with more than one group of endocrine disrupting chemicals were four times as likely to have a baby boy with hypospadias.

What Can You Do?

1) Read product labels to reduce your exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Women most likely to give birth to boys with hypospadias are those who work as cleaners, hairdressers or beauticians. However, you do not need to work in the cleaning or beauty industry to be at risk. Read the labels of the products you buy. Choose those that say they are BPA-free. Avoid synthetic fragrances, phthalates, and parabens, paying particularly close attention to cosmetics, perfume, food packaging and plastic packaging.

2) Make your own. It is simple, effective and inexpensive to make your own cleaning products, as well as body washes and even perfume. Most of the time, all you need is baking soda, white distilled vinegar, fragrance-free liquid dish soap, and water. Care2 offers many recipes for safe make-your-own cleansers, face scrubs, and perfume.

3) Frequent beauty parlors that make an effort to use BPA-free and phthalate-free products. Search out establishments that use natural products to protect the health of their workers as well as their customers.

4) Use green cleaning companies, or provide your own green cleaning products. An increasing number of professional cleaning services use only eco-friendly, non-toxic cleansers. If you have a household cleaning service, insist they use the safest, healthiest products available. Provide them yourself if necessary.

5) Spread the word. Through word-of-mouth and social media, tell your friends, family and co-workers — and especially women who are pregnant or thinking of getting pregnant — what you’ve learned about the dangers of using products that contain phthalates, parabens, BPA, and other hormone disrupting compounds.


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