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Chemical Exposures During Pregnancy: Dealing with Potential, but Unproven, Risks to Child Health (Scientific Impact Paper No. 37)


This paper is designed to inform women who are pregnant or breastfeeding of the sources and routes of chemical exposure in order for them to take positive action in regard to minimising harm to their unborn child.

The paper aims to raise awareness of the current issues surrounding chemical exposure during pregnancy and offers advice for women to make informed decisions that will predispose their baby to have the best possible health. There is currently no official antenatal advice that informs women of such potential risks that some chemical exposures could pose.

The authors explain that while the consumption of herbal remedies or medicines, such as paracetamol, and use of household cleaning products, such as pesticides, are well-documented sources of chemical exposure, this paper points out the lesser recognised sources that could accumulate with the mixture effect posing potential harm.

The paper suggests the best approach for pregnant women is a ‘safety first’ approach, which is to assume there is risk present even when it may be minimal or eventually unfounded. Recommendations made in the paper include: using fresh food whenever possible by reducing foods in cans/plastic containers, minimising the use of personal care products, avoiding paint fumes and use of all pesticides, and only taking over-the-counter medicines when necessary.

The authors also suggest that information in the paper should be conveyed routinely in infertility and antenatal clinics so women are made aware of key facts that will allow them to make informed choices regarding lifestyle changes.

It also acknowledges that while there are growing concerns over everyday chemical exposure effects, realistically pregnant women are exposed to a complex mixture of hundreds of chemicals at low levels and methods for assessing the full risk of exposure are not yet developed.

COVID disclaimer

This Scientific Impact Paper was developed prior to the emergence of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Version history

This is the first edition of this Scientific Impact Paper.

Please note that the Scientific Advisory Committee regularly assesses the need to update. Further information on this review is available on request.

Developer declaration of interests

Available on request.