Posts Tagged ‘mercury’

Fish safety during pregnancy: what to eat or avoid

Monday, February 13th, 2017

Mercury is a metal that can harm your baby. Fish get mercury from the water they swim in and from eating other fish that have mercury in them. By eating fish that contain mercury, the metal can pass to your baby during pregnancy. This can cause brain damage and affect your baby’s hearing and vision. However, it can be difficult to know which fish is safe to eat and which should be limited or avoided. Fortunately, the FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) and EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) have created a chart that classifies fish into three categories:

  • Best choices: eat 2-3 servings a week
  • Good choices: eat 1 serving a week
  • Choices to avoid: high mercury levels, best to avoid completely

Nearly 90 percent of fish eaten in the United States fall into the best choices category, according to the FDA and EPA. So make sure you get the recommended 2-3 servings of fish per week from the “Best choices” category, or 8 to 12 ounces total (12 ounces maximum).

 

FDA

 

Avoid mercury in skin care products

Thursday, July 28th, 2016

rubbing-nosesMost pregnant women know to avoid mercury from certain fish as it could harm a developing baby. But did you know that some skin care products contain mercury? Mercury may be found in skin creams, lotions and certain soaps. It is also found in some skin-lightening creams made outside of the U.S.

According to the FDA, “Some people – including pregnant women, nursing babies and young children – are especially vulnerable to mercury toxicity…Babies may be particularly sensitive to the harm mercury can cause to their developing brains and nervous systems. Newborns who nurse are vulnerable because mercury is passed into breast milk.”

FDA senior medical advisor Arthur Simone, M.D. says “Your family might breathe mercury vapors released from these products. Your children might touch washcloths or towels that are contaminated with mercury. It could be as simple as touching someone’s cheek or face.”

How do you know if your product contains mercury?

Check the list of ingredients, and do not use the product if any of these words are listed: “mercurous chloride,” “calomel,” “mercuric,” “mercurio,” or “mercury.”

The FDA further warns that if there is no product label or list of ingredients, do not use it. They say “Federal law requires that ingredients be listed on the label of any cosmetic or nonprescription drug, so do not use a product that doesn’t have a label.”

Why is mercury dangerous?

Mercury is a metal which can damage many parts of your body, including your lungs, kidneys and nervous system (brain, spinal cord and nerves). It also can cause hearing and vision problems. How serious the damage is depends on how much mercury you’re exposed to. Babies exposed to mercury in the womb can have brain damage and hearing and vision problems.

Where else is mercury found?

You can be exposed to mercury through your skin (lotions or creams), the air (by breathing it) and eating or drinking food or water that contains mercury. See our article for more details about where mercury may be found and ways to stay safe.

Have questions? Text or email our health education specialists at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Keeping breast milk safe

Monday, August 3rd, 2015

mom breastfeedingThere are a few things you need to take into consideration if you are breastfeeding or pumping your breast milk, in addition to
avoiding alcohol while breastfeeding.

Caffeine

Consuming coffee, tea and caffeinated sodas in moderation is fine if you are breastfeeding or pumping. If you find that your baby is fussy or irritable when you consume a lot of caffeine (usually more than 5 caffeinates beverages per day) you should consider decreasing your consumption. Keep in mind that caffeine can be found in:

• Coffee and coffee-flavored products, like yogurt and ice cream
• Tea
• Soft drinks
• Chocolate and chocolate products, such as syrup and hot cocoa
• Medications used for pain relief, migraines and colds

The amount of caffeine in different products varies as well, depending on how it was prepared and served (such as an espresso or latte beverage.) Make sure you check packaging for the number of milligrams of caffeine in one serving.

Mercury

You probably knew during your pregnancy to avoid eating fish that contains high amounts of mercury such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish. The same is true while you are breastfeeding. Including fish in your diet is a good way to get protein and healthy omega-3 fatty acids, so eat fish that contain less mercury, like canned light tuna, shrimp, salmon, Pollock and catfish.

Medications

Some prescription medicines, such as those to help you sleep, painkillers and drugs used to treat cancer or migraine headaches, aren’t safe to take while breastfeeding. Others, like certain kinds of birth control, may affect the amount of breast milk you make. Read our post on medications and breastfeeding and speak with your provider about any over-the-counter and prescriptions medications you are taking.

Medical conditions

Certain medical conditions can make breastfeeding unsafe for your baby. These include:

• If your baby has galactosemia, a genetic condition where your baby can’t digest the sugar in breast milk.
• If you have HIV.
• If you have cancer and are getting treated with medicine or radiation.
• If you have human T-cell lymphotropic virus. This is a virus that can cause blood cancer and nerve problems.
• If you have untreated, active tuberculosis. This is an infection that mainly affects the lungs.
• If you have Ebola, a rare but very serious disease that can cause heavy bleeding, organ failure and death.

Smoking and street drugs

Don’t smoke. Nicotine, a drug found in cigarettes can pass to your baby through breast milk and make him fussy and have a hard time sleeping. It can also reduce your milk supply so your baby may not get the milk he needs.

Don’t take street drugs, like heroin and cocaine. You can pass these substances to your baby through breast milk.

Tell your provider if you need help to quit smoking or using street drugs.

Bottom Line

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you need support, read our article on how to receive help with breastfeeding.

 

 

Mercury in fish

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

fish for dinnerYou may have heard it’s important to eat fish.  But then again, you may have heard fish can be dangerous, don’t eat it when you’re pregnant.  What’s the deal with that?

Fish is an easy-to-prepare food. It is high in protein, low in fat and full of heart-healthy nutrients. But pollution in our oceans, lakes, rivers and streams is leaving some fish with toxic levels of mercury, which is especially damaging to fetuses, babies and children.

If a woman is exposed to high levels of mercury before or while she is pregnant, her health and the baby’s health are threatened. High levels of mercury can cause brain damage and affect a baby’s hearing and vision.

So, how much fish can a pregnant woman safely eat?  To start with, you should not eat fish that can be high in mercury, like shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish. But you can safely eat up to 12 ounces a week of shrimp, salmon, pollock, catfish and canned light tuna. It’s also OK to eat 6 ounces a week of albacore (white) tuna. All fish should be cooked to avoid any possible parasites or bacteria so, if you’re pregnant, skip the raw oysters, sushi and sashimi for now.

By following these guidelines, you can obtain the health benefits of eating fish, while reducing your baby’s exposure to mercury.

Broken light bulbs and mercury

Friday, March 9th, 2012

cfl-bulbs21The new squiggly light bulbs (compact fluorescent lights or CFLs) are energy efficient, which is a good thing. But they contain a little bit of mercury which you can inhale if a bulb breaks and you go to clean it up – not so good. It’s not much mercury (less than 1/100th of what’s in an old mercury thermometer) so you don’t need to call the hazmat team!  You can clean it up yourself, as long as you’re not pregnant, if you follow these pointers:

First, infants, small children, pets and pregnant women should stay out of the room and not return until several hours after clean up. Turn off the heat, AC or fans that might blow particles around. Close the room door and open the windows to let in fresh air. Do not use a vacuum, broom or metal dust pan – instead, get out the duct tape.

On hard surfaces (hardwood, tile, linoleum): Wearing disposable gloves, carefully pick up the pieces of glass and put them in a zip-lock back. Using stiff pieces of paper, gently push the rest of the light bulb’s remains, including any dust or tiny mercury beads, into small piles. (Don’t do this on carpeting.) Then carefully lift each pile and place it and the paper in another zip-lock bag. Using duct tape, or other sticky tape, blot the remaining debris until everything you can see is gone. Zip-lock bag the used tape. Now take damp paper towels and blot the whole area. Put the used paper towels and gloves in a zip-lock bag and then take all the zip lock bags out to the trash can. Wash your hands and face.

If one of these light bulbs breaks on a carpet or rug, tiny mercury bits may sink into fibers where they may emit vapors for a long time. After following the cleanup steps above, seriously consider removing the section of carpet where the bulb broke, especially if this is an area often used by small children or pregnant women. (Put the carpeting in a plastic bag in the outdoor trash.)

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has more information on cleaning up broken CFL bulbs on their web site. http://www.epa.gov/cfl/cflcleanup.html

Don’t eat that!

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

There is so much to pay attention to these days regarding food that sometimes you can feel spooked about putting anything in your mouth.  This stuff is “good,” that’s “bad,” even though it was good yesterday…  Try not to go crazy and remember the old adage, “everything in moderation.”

Still, it is important to watch what you eat because not all foods are safe for pregnant women. Some contain high levels of chemicals that can affect your baby’s development. Others put you at risk for getting an infection that can hurt your baby.  Here are some tips:
• Avoid swordfish, shark, king mackerel and tile fish. These fish can contain potentially risky levels of mercury. The same for raw fish, especially shellfish (oysters, clams)
• Cook all meat, poultry and seafood thoroughly to kill bacteria.
• Cook all eggs well and avoid soft-scrambled eggs and all foods made with raw or lightly cooked eggs (does that Caesar salad dressing have raw egg in it?)
• Avoid soft cheeses made with unpasteurized milk. Examples are Brie, feta, Camembert, Roquefort, blue-veined, queso blanco, queso fresco and Panela. Check the label to see what kind of milk was used to make the cheese.
• All milk and any foods made from it should be pasteurized. So should juices.
• Raw vegetable sprouts, including alfalfa, clover, radish and mung bean might be sources of salmonella, so don’t eat them.

U.S. federal court: No link between vaccines and autism

Friday, February 13th, 2009

gavel-smYesterday, a U.S. federal court dismissed cases from parents who claimed that vaccinations caused their children’s autism. According to NBC Nightly News, “the parents failed to show that vaccinations played any role at all in causing autism.”

While some families still fear that there may be a connection between autism and vaccines, a large body of well-done research has found no link. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the March of Dimes all recommend that children be vaccinated.

While expressing concern for children with autism and their parents, the court said the research used to support the claims was severely inadequate. In the court’s view, the medical experts testifying for the parents were poorly qualified and lacked sufficient experience. In making its decision, the court reviewed over 5,000 pages of expert testimony and 939 medical articles.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and other organizations continue to support research to better understand the causes of autism. In a statement, DHHS said that it hoped the court’s decision “will help reassure parents that vaccines do not cause autism.”

To see an earlier post and discussion on this topic, click here.