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Gov. Brown Signs Legislation to Inform Women about Chemical Exposure Risks During Pregnancy


OB-GYNs encouraged to inform pregnant patients about dangers of chemical exposure

For Immediate Release: October 9, 2013
Contact: Margie Kelly, 541-222-9699,, or Shannon Coughlin, 415-336-2246,

SAN FRANCISCO – Today California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law that will require the state to inform pregnant women about how chemical exposure can compromise a healthy pregnancy by affecting prenatal development and contributing to later-life diseases. 

The new law expands existing law that requires medical professionals in California to provide pregnant women with a pamphlet on prenatal testing; now that pamphlet will include an insert about the impact of toxic chemical exposures on prenatal development. The Department of Public Health will also send a letter to OB-GYNs and midwives, encouraging them to discuss environmental health with their patients, including how to avoid chemical hazards.

“Given all that we know about how toxic chemical exposures can harm a developing fetus, it is absolutely appropriate to inform pregnant women about how to avoid dangerous chemicals that can be found in things like cosmetics, food packaging and cleaning products,” said Gretchen Lee Salter, senior policy manager at the Breast Cancer Fund. Pregnant with her second child, Salter pointed out that without a law like this, pregnant women aren’t getting the information they need. “During both of my pregnancies, my doctor advised about smoking, diet and vitamins, but she never mentioned anything about the risks associated with chemical exposures. Fortunately, this law will help change that.”

The legislation was introduced by Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills), and sponsored by the Breast Cancer Fund, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the March of Dimes and California WIC. 
This law comes on the heels of major statements made last month by ACOG and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, which recommended that physicians educate patients about how to avoid toxic chemicals found in their homes, communities and workplaces. 

These actions by the state and medical associations are in response to the strong scientific evidence linking prenatal chemical exposures to later-life health problems like breast cancer. In September, the Breast Cancer Fund released a report on prenatal exposure to the endocrine-disrupting chemical bisphenol (BPA), which is used in the lining of most canned foods and has been shown to disrupt fetal development.

“Recent science shows that prenatal exposure to BPA is of even greater concern than early childhood exposure, which reminds us why pregnant women are uniquely vulnerable to harm from toxic chemicals found in our everyday products,” said Salter.

California leads the nation in passing laws that protect people from toxic chemical exposures. On October 1, the state launched its Safer Consumer Products program, which gives the state the authority to regulate toxic chemicals in consumer products.

  • Incredibly toddlers can put things in their mouth up to 76 times per hour and may ingest up to 10 grams of dust per day
  • Every day around 17,000 litres of air pass through our lungs
  • The CSIRO estimates that the cost of poor indoor air quality in Australia may be as high as $12 billon per year (SOK, 2001).
  • More than 80,000 chemicals have been developed and released into the global environment since the 1950’s. Today the World Health Organisation (WHO) attributes 36% of all childhood deaths to environmental causes.
  • Most European countries don’t chlorinate their water supply and about 97 percent of countries don’t fluoridate their water supply because of health concerns.
  • Use indoor plants to reduce VOC’s from your indoor air.
  • Perfumes may contain many chemicals, one being phthalates which mimic the hormone oestrogen which has been linked to breast cancer.
  • Choose safer plastics such as polypropylene (PP), high density polyethylene (HDPE) and low density polyethylene (LDPE). Never reuse plastic drink bottles and definitely don’t leave them in cars in the hot sun.
  • Waiting for high levels of scientific proof before taking action on electromagnetic fields can lead to a very high health and economic costs, as was the case with asbestos, leaded petrol and tobacco (Council of Europe, 2011)
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