You may not realize that certain substances in your home can harm your growing baby. Here's what you should be aware of.

Although you're more likely to be exposed to environmental toxins on the job than at home, there are still some substances you may routinely use at home that you should now avoid. These include:

  • Chemical insecticides. If your neighborhood is being sprayed -- for mosquitoes, for example -- visit someone away from the spraying area. Stay away for a few days until the fumes are gone because certain insecticides have been linked to birth defects. Avoid using insecticides at home too. If you must spray your home or apartment for insects, close all pantry and cabinet doors to avoid contaminating food. Stay out of the house until the fumes are gone; after the chemicals have dissipated with the help of fresh air, they are no longer a danger to you or your baby.
  • Paint and paint removers. Most paints manufactured today, including latex, no longer contain harmful lead or mercury, so you can probably paint safely. Yet consider the risks: Balancing on a ladder can be dangerous, and the repetitive motion of using a roller or brush can be hard on your back. If you must paint, open the windows. Stay away from oil-base paints, which may contain solvents. Avoid using any paint removers or thinners because most of these are extremely toxic.
  • Household cleaners. Avoid dry-cleaning fluids and oven cleaners because they are known toxins. There is no known correlation between other common household cleaners and pregnancy problems, so go ahead and disinfect your counters and toilets. However, if the product has a strong odor, avoid breathing it in directly and wear rubber gloves when using any cleaner.
  • Lead. Exposure to lead can increase your risk of pregnancy-induced hypertension or miscarriage. High lead exposure is also associated with birth defects and neurological problems in infants. One common source of lead exposure during pregnancy is tap water; check with your local Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to see how your home's tap water measures up. Invest in a filter or use bottled water for drinking if you suspect your water contains lead. It's best to use cold water for drinking or cooking because hot water leaches more lead from pipes. Another source of lead exposure is food or drink contaminated by lead-lined pottery or china. If you have pitchers or dishes that are handmade or imported, they may contain lead, so use them for display, not for serving or eating food. To avoid exposure to paint containing lead, postpone any plans for renovating an old home.

Originally published in You & Your Baby: Pregnancy.

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