What can I do to help reduce unnecessary exposures during pregnancy | Breast Cancer UK

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the best start in life

What can I do to help reduce unnecessary exposures?

Top Tips

  • DO East fresh food and if possible buy organic
  • DO Check ingredients and labels for potentially harmful chemicals
  • DO Use glass, ceramic stainless steel or Pyrex for food and drink storage.
  • AVOID products which contain parabens, phthalates, bisphenol A or triclosan.
  • AVOID plastics where possible.
  • AVOID microwaving food in plastic
  • REDUCE  consumption of processed and tinned food


  • DO Discard old plastic products especially if scratched
  • If you use plastics opt for:
  •  high-density polyethylene (HDPE,)
  •  low-density polyethylene (LDPE) 
  •  polypropylene (PP)
  • DO Find alternatives to plastic toys, (especially teethers) and tableware
  • AVOID plastics marked:
  • Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET),
  • Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)
  • Polystyrene

At work

  • If your work brings you into contact with potentially hazardous substances, discuss how you can reduce exposures with your employer.
  • Always work in a well ventilated environment
  • Wear gloves and mask (if appropriate) and wash hands regularly 

Food and Drink

  • DO Eat fresh, preferably organic fruit and vegetables
  • DO Wash fresh food thoroughly to reduce pesticide residues
  • DO Choose stainless steel drinks bottles and glass, ceramic or china for storage
  • DO Use ceramic, stainless steel or Pyrex for food and drinks storage
  • AVOID tinned food/canned drinks/plastic containers
  • AVOID processed food
  • AVOID storing food in plastics and cling film
  • AVOID heating food in plastic containers which can release harmful chemicals into food (1,2)


  • DO Minimize use of personal care products and cosmetics.
  • AVOID applying products all over your body on a regular basis (eg spray tans)
  • AVOID cosmetics, deodorants and toothpastes that contain parabens, phthalates, aluminium, fragrances (synthetic musks) and triclosan
  • AVOID hair dyes (3) especially those that contain para phenylenediamine (PPD), nonylphenol, resorcinol or ammonia
  • AVOID synthetic fragrances, perfumes and wet wipes

Home and garden

  • DO Keep rooms aired, dust and vacuum regularly 
  • DO Try an eco-range of domestic cleaning products that are free from harmful chemicals
  • DO wear gloves and mask when using fly , flea powder or garden sprays
  • AVOID products that contain biocides (e.g. triclosan in liquid hand soap)
  • AVOID products with synthetic fragrances, scented candles and air fresheners and perfumed cleaning products
  • AVOID  using fly sprays, flea powder and deodorant sprays
  • AVOID garden and plant pesticides and fungicides

Preparing for baby’s arrival

  • DO use water based and low volatile organic compound (VOC)  emitting products without biocides when painting
  • DO ensure adequate ventilation and wear protective gloves and mask when decorating.
  • DO choose natural products such as wood, cork or ceramic tiles and organic products which contain fewer chemicals.
  • DO Wash new clothes and linen before use including fabric dinner mats and bibs
  • DO Source organic cotton if possible as it is likely to contain fewer chemicals
  • DO choose solid wood and air newly bought furniture
  • AVOID,plywood which may emit formaldehyde (4)
  • AVOID removing paint, especially if it contains lead
  • AVOID installing new carpets or laminate (especially those that contain biocides and waterproof sprays).If possible, wait until after baby is born


Helping to protect your baby during pregnancy >>

Which chemicals are considered potentially harmful? >>

How might harmful chemicals affect my baby's health? >>



1. Moreira, M.A. et al. (2014). Analysis of Phthalate Migration to Food Simulants in Plastic Containers during Microwave Operations. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 11: 507-526.

2. Lim, D. S. et al. (2009). Potential Risk of Bisphenol a Migration From Polycarbonate Containers After Heating, Boiling, and Microwaving. Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part A 72: 21-22.

3.  Saitta P, et al. (2013). Is there a true concern regarding the use of hair dye and malignancy development? A review of the epidemiological evidence relating personal hair dye use to the risk of malignancy. The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology 6: 39-46.

4. CPSC (2013). An update on formaldehyde. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Accessed February 5 2015

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