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During pregnancy, mothers-to-be generally try to eat better and take better care of themselves in the hopes of improving the health of their infants. Pregnant moms may also try avoiding certain chemical exposures like cigarette smoke and even harsh cleaning products. This can be a tricky task, however. One recent study has found that flame retardant exposure—a difficult exposure to avoid—is linked to lower birth weight in babies.

The study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, found that for every tenfold increase in PBDE (polybrominated diphenyl ether) levels in the mother’s blood, there was a 4.1 ounce drop in the baby’s birth weight. Lead researcher Kim Harley, from the University of California, Berkley’s School of Public Health, stated, “What we saw was a shift toward lighter babies among women with higher PBDE exposure rather than a dramatic increase in the number of low birth weight babies.” For babies already at risk for low birth weight for other reasons, 4.1 ounces would make a big difference.

The PBDEs tested for in the study were actually phased out of use in 2004, but because they are found in many household items, their persistence is still widespread. These chemicals leach from furniture, upholstery, carpet, electronics and more (even baby products and children’s pajamas!), and are stored in fat cells. Flame retardants have been linked to reduced fertility and thyroid dysfunction in women.

How do we get out of this toxic soup? Well, we can’t. But the researchers do recommend wet mopping when dusting since flame retardants are concentrated in dust, and frequent hand washing to avoid ingesting these chemicals.

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Expectant moms have a lot to think about when it comes to their babies’ health, like eating a healthy diet, getting plenty of exercise, and making sure they avoid things like smoking and alcohol. But what if something you couldn’t even see was affecting the healthy growth of your baby while it was still in the womb?

Experts at the University of California, Berkeley recently found that exposure to flame-retardant chemicals called PBDEs (polybrominated diphenylethers) could significantly affect the healthy brain development of babies in utero. Used in countless consumer products such as electronics, building materials, carpet and upholstery, motor vehicles and more, PBDEs have also been linked to increased risk of miscarriage and premature birth.

So what’s the connection? Researchers looked at more than 250 pregnant women and found that exposure to PBDEs may result in reduced levels of specific thyroid hormones necessary for healthy fetal brain development, and that higher levels of PBDEs in the mother’s blood were linked to lower levels of important thyroid-stimulating hormones.

The study, which will be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, underscores the danger of our modern environment and the thousands of toxins to which we are exposed daily. Curious about how toxic you are? Visit Brenda Watson’s Detox Strategy today and take the quiz! Plus, learn Brenda’s simple tips on how to reduce toxic exposure and eliminate stored toxins from your body.

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