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Researchers raise concerns over chemicals found in tests of pregnant women

DEDHAM, Mass. — Chemicals can be found in our food, water, and even the air we breathe from dust. But scientists said you can and should restrict them when you are pregnant to protect your unborn child.

Yesenia Rios-Rey used to have multi-colored dyed hair, wear lots of makeup and have long, fake nails. These days the expectant mother says she is cutting out the chemicals to help her baby grow.

“I feel more energetic, less fatigued… it helps you love yourself more as well, like emotional-wise,” said Rios-Rey.

Emory University researcher Carmen Marsit, Ph.D. helped study the relationship between chemicals and pregnant women.

The study, published by the American Chemical Society in May 2022, tested urine previously collected during the pregnancy of 171 women in five states including New Hampshire.

It found chemicals in all of the women’s samples: 100% tested positive for a pesticide.

But the research found women of color had more exposure to more chemicals. “And this is probably based on a lot of structural racism or other factors that are feeding into the types of products that people use. The types of foods that are available to them are different cultural differences,” said Marsit.

Scientists said more chemical exposure during pregnancy can lead to more developmental and behavioral problems for your child even as they age.

Researchers said that may be why we are seeing so many fights and other problems with students these days.

“Our genetics don’t change. So, really it has to be our environment that’s changing, that’s leading to these increases,” said Marsit.

To limit your exposure, researchers said watch what you put on your body. Don’t dye your hair, don’t use polish, acrylic or other chemicals on your nails and stay away from perfume.

But the most important thing you can do according to the researchers is watch what you put in your body. Stay away from processed food. Stick to fresh meat, fruits and vegetables and try to eat organic.

“Studies show that if you eat organic if you can, it does result in lower exposures to a number of different pesticides,” said Tracey Woodruff, Ph.D. who is a researcher at University of California, San Francisco and led the study.

Researchers also found you can get rid of some of the chemicals by washing your food or peeling it, but not all of it. They said a lot of our food is made with seeds already doused in chemicals so, it’s in the food itself.

You also can do things around your home to limit the exposure like cleaning with vinegar and baking soda instead of store-bought products full of chemicals. “Chemicals love to hang out in dust. So, washing your hands before you eat, or cleaning with a HEPA or wet mop also can reduce exposures in the household,” said Woodruff.

Yesenia Rios-Rey says she’s taking every step she can to limit her chemical exposure. “Is it better to just stay away from it? Or do you want to dibble and dabble and test your luck? And honestly, I don’t like trying to test my luck,” said Rios-Rey.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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