3.

The adverse effects of chemical cleaning agents on pregnant women

As an expectant mother it is completely natural to want to prepare your home for the arrival of your baby. However, in your efforts to create a clean and welcoming environment for the newest member of your family, you may be unwittingly placing your baby and yourself in danger. This is due to the fact that the toxic chemicals used in conventional cleaning agents have been shown to have adverse health effects on pregnant women and developing foetuses.

According to a group research study, undertaken by J Henderson from the University of Bath and colleagues from Brunel University and the University of Aberdeen, the use of bleach, air fresheners and other mass-produced household cleaning products during pregnancy and shortly after birth has been linked with wheezing and asthma symptoms occurring in young children later in life. The results of this study demonstrated that expectant mothers who used chemical cleaning agents increased the risk of their child developing persistent wheezing by the age of seven, by up to 41%.

These wheezing and asthmatic symptoms occur due to the fact that expectant mothers inhale the toxic fumes emitted by these aerosol cleaning agents. Once inhaled, these noxious gases can impair your baby's developing lungs, respiratory system, liver, kidneys and other detoxifying organs. For these reasons, it is strongly recommended that you reduce your use of aerosol cleaning products whilst you are pregnant.

In addition to reducing your use of aerosol cleaning agents, it is also strongly advised that you refrain from using drain, bathroom and toilet cleaners during your pregnancy; particularly those which contain chlorine. This is due to the fact that, at room temperature, chorine in its gaseous form can create carcinogenic compounds known as dioxins, which have been connected with causing birth defects, miscarriage, infertility, immune disorders, diabetes and other severe health conditions.

Moreover, it is also important to recognise that your skin will be more sensitive whilst pregnant and, as such, chemicals with which you use to clean every day may now cause you to suffer from acute dermatitis; a painful and irritable skin condition that can manifest as reddened, swollen or itchy skin. You can limit these dermatological symptoms by wearing a mask, latex gloves and protective clothing whilst cleaning, as well as switching to non-toxic cleaning agents.

As mentioned in previous sections of this guide, chemical cleaning agents increase the level of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) within your home. Prolonged exposure to these VOCs can cause headaches, earache, nausea and diarrhoea in pregnant women. To remedy this issue, it is recommended that you open all the windows and doors within the rooms that you intend to clean. This efficient ventilation during and after cleaning will improve indoor air quality and reduce your susceptibility to the ailments caused by VOCs.

Above all else, you should always check the labels of any products before cleaning to verify they are safe for pregnant women to use. Avoid using any cleaning agents that contain glycol ethers because they can increase your risk of miscarriage. Moreover, you should also avoid products containing phenols because they have been linked with birth defects and foetal death, as well as ammonia and chlorine compounds which can cause skin irritation, headaches and nausea. As a rule, you should avoid any cleaning agents which bear the words 'toxic', 'corrosive', 'danger', or 'poisonous' on the label. If you begin to feel fatigued, nauseous or in any way breathless whilst using a cleaning agent, you should refrain from using it immediately and regain your composure within a separate, well-ventilated area. Furthermore, whether you are pregnant or not, you should never mix different chemicals together, such as ammonia with bleach or dish soap. The combination of these toxic chemicals can cause noxious fumes and gases which can prove lethal to babies, children and adults alike.

Fortunately, you can completely eliminate the adverse effects of these VOCs and toxic cleaning agents by replacing your commercial cleaning products with natural remedies. Green cleaning alternatives such as distilled white vinegar, lemon juice and salt are completely safe for expectant mothers to use. For example, natural remedies such as castile soap (a gentle, plant-based liquid soap) and plain baking soda dissolved in water are both safe, completely natural, all-purpose cleaners. In this manner, by using green cleaning products you can still keep your home looking sparkling clean, whilst also ensuring a happy and healthy pregnancy for you and your baby.

Next Chapter