People think I'm a little crazy. My husband was rightfully concerned about what getting pregnant would do to my already vigilant brain. I think of it as a way of life: My constant battle to maintain optimum health in an industrialized society more interested in money than in human health or the health of the planet.
A few years ago, I went through a period of time where my immune system wasn't working so well, causing me to become very allergic to a lot of things, and that may have exacerbated my vigilant tendencies.
I recognize that what I do could be seen as a lot of work. And that some of the things I worry about are pretty low risk. I think of it as my optional engagement with insanity. Friends say this is what makes me bearable; that I understand where the line is, I know when I'm crossing it, and I don't pressure anyone else to follow my example.
Actually, my need to keep and follow such a list of rules to feel "Safe" could be diagnosed as a mild form of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. I'll accept that label. Too bad I don't have the compulsive cleaning part. Our house would look a lot nicer.
So, here it is. My list:
Things I avoided before I got pregnant, because of a reported link to cancer or other health issues
Parabens (preservatives found in most cosmetics and body care products)
PVC (like in vinyl shower curtains, because of the phthalates)
Second-hand smoke (and first-hand, of course)
Formaldehyde — most often found in sealants (carpet glue, particle board, MDF, plywood, veneers)
Industrially raised meat and poultry (containing antibiotics and added hormones)
Farm-raised fish (containing PCBs)
New Paint (containing high levels of VOCs —Volatile Organic Compounds)
Any strong off-gassing smells from new materials like rubber and plastics (basically, the perfume of most hardware stores)
Dry cleaning solvents
That strange filmy treatment on new clothes (must always wash before wearing)
Unfiltered tap water
Refined sugar, flour, and any food containing too many ingredients that I can't pronounce.
Additional things I avoid now that I am pregnant
Cat box duty (toxoplasmosis risk)
Gardening (toxoplasmosis risk)
Un-pasteurized soft cheeses (listeria)
Packaged deli meats and sausages unless heated till steaming (listeria)
Pâtés (listeria): The books say you can eat "canned" pâté — but who would, really? — and then I avoid fresh pâté in restaurants because I can't remember if that's risky or not
Albacore tuna, with all other fish being eaten only in rotation and in limited quantities or not at all due to the levels of mercury
Caffeine: I know the books say you can consume in moderation, but personally, I can't, so I had to go cold turkey on this one.
Artificial sweeteners: Research has not linked this stuff to any harm, but I was suspicious of it before, so am happy to leave it out now.
Sushi: This one bugs me a bit because one book I read, The Panic-Free Pregnancy, pointed out that sushi poses the same risks whether you are pregnant or not — the bacteria it may contain will only harm YOU, not the baby. Then again, since I got pregnant, sushi has had no appeal to me whatsoever, even the cooked and vegetarian stuff, so it's a non-issue.
Undercooked eggs, like in Caesar salad dressing: Apparently raw egg or salmonella is the same quasi-non-issue as sushi, meaning the bad bacteria wouldn't cross the placenta, but I tend to avoid this anyway.
Nonstick pans (Studies on health risks are inconclusive, but I'm happier using Stainless Steel anyway)
All medicines, including ones deemed safe during pregnancy such as antibiotics, antihistamines, Tylenol.
Before you ask: My lifestyle did not include alcohol or recreational drugs when I got pregnant, so that one's been a no-brainer.
Things I just found out about that I am now avoiding, and will continue to avoid after the baby is born
Mineral-based sunscreens and make-up that use "nanoparticles" i.e.: "micronized" minerals that are smaller than 100nm. A recent article on the subject in Consumer Reports noted that these itty-bitty bits, if they make it into the bloodstream, can cross the blood-brain barrier, causing all sorts of trouble, and that many sunscreens do not disclose whether their mineral ingredients are nano-sized.
There you go. That's my list. (While some of these ideas are in the pregnancy books, please note that this is NOT a list of recommendations. I am not qualified for that.) I do believe our bodies, when functioning properly, are efficient at processing and eliminating most toxins, and that the placenta does its job in further protecting the baby from most things. I have to believe this, or I'd never be able to get out of bed, walk down the street, eat in a restaurant, breathe in the city....
For my next trick: How to raise my child to be health conscious, yet not neurotic about it.