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What if I was Exposed to Chemicals while Pregnant?

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Chemicals and Toxic Substances can cause Serious Harm during Pregnancy

Living in an industrial society, we enjoy convenience and innovation in products that help us cook, clean, and groom. However, the unfortunate cost of comfort and convenience for some products is chemical exposure. Daily, we encounter chemicals, some safe and some not. Breathing, eating, drinking, or absorbing enough of them through our skin can make us sick. Sadly, pregnant women and fetuses are more vulnerable to environmental chemicals than other populations, especially in the early stages of pregnancy.

What are Some Common Scenarios in which Pregnant Women are Exposed to Chemicals?

Dangerous chemicals plague pregnancies in the home, workplace, and outdoors. Pregnant women often apply products to their faces and bodies without a second thought, wash the kitchen sink and floor with cleaning products, and drink water at home or in restaurants. Inhaling tobacco smoke, drinking alcohol, or taking prescription medications are other common forms of chemical exposure. While alcohol and tobacco are intentional acts of chemical ingestion, lead, mercury, solvent, pesticide, and industrial chemical exposure is more often unintentional.

For example, a pregnant woman’s workplace may contain harmful chemicals, such as those in agriculture, coal, and technology industries. Working in manufacturing plants, an individual may come into contact with heavy metals in lead, mercury, solvents, or industrial chemicals. In the same vein, pregnant women in rural areas face increased exposure to pesticide run-off from farms in the water supply and the air. Household pesticides are also prevalent and sometimes dangerous to a mother and her unborn child. The home can also contain lead in the paint and asbestos in attics and walls. Despite regulations, lead can be found in paint, dust, soil, drinking water, children’s toys, canned food, imported candies, air, and other products that people use daily. Overall, merely living in a home or apartment, working at your job, or eating food and breathing the air can lead to chemical intake.

Do Chemicals Cross into the Placenta?

Even though a fetus is enveloped in a safe watery environment that nourishes and cushions the fetus against outside forces, the mother can introduce the fetus to chemicals by what she allows or introduces into her body by smoking, drinking, breathing, and eating. This can happen unknowingly for many pregnant women. A recent study by the University of California, San Francisco, confirms that with the growing number of chemicals in the environment comes an increase in previously undetected chemical varieties in pregnant women. In some cases, chemicals in a pregnant woman’s blood results in their fetus being exposed to harmful chemicals in utero with the significant health problems that follow, including possibly passing on the destructive effects to future generations.

For the most part, the placenta keeps harmful agents from the fetus, for example, microorganisms like toxins, bacteria, and viruses. And yet, the placenta does not keep all hazards from the fetus. Heavy metals enter the fetus through the placenta when the mother transfers the chemicals through the bloodstream. Mercury enters the fetus’s bloodstream the same way lead does and is contained in food that is high in mercury, most notably in oily fish like swordfish, salmon, sardines, and herring. Likewise, pesticides may enter the bloodstream through food but can also enter the skin and respiratory system when pregnant women touch plants sprayed with pesticides. Along the same lines, solvents and industrial chemicals enter the system through touch and inhaling fumes. A mother’s illness can affect the fetus as well.

What Chemicals and Toxic Substances are Unsafe during Pregnancy?

Unfortunately, chemicals are everywhere, and what experts once believed were safe are now unsafe when it comes to some substances. While some chemicals are notoriously harmful to a developing fetus, such as tobacco smoke, alcohol, and lead, others may not be as obvious. Mercury, pesticide, and industrial chemicals are lesser-known but equally as dangerous during pregnancy. Solvents like paint thinners and cleaners, or industrial chemicals like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), paint, oils, drain cleaners, and gasoline, can harm pregnant women and their unborn children. Moreover, meat and produce may contain pesticides, antibiotics, and other chemicals that can cause damage to developing fetuses. More frightening still, over-the-counter and prescription medications, like ACE inhibitors (for heart conditions) and Antimetabolite (chemotherapy), heighten the fetal congenital disability risks, though they may be necessary to keep the mother alive.

What Potential Effects do Dangerous Chemicals have on a Fetus?

Chemicals in the mother’s bloodstream can cause numerous dangers to the growing fetus. Depending on the chemical or toxin involved, long-term effects may arise from chronic prenatal toxic exposure, which could lead to premature birth, low birth weight, birth defects, and the child’s physical, mental, and behavioral problems. Some chemicals affect the fetus’s brain and nervous system, while others diminish the oxygen and nutrients in the fetus. Studies have long revealed that tobacco smoke can result in prematurity, low birth weight, miscarriage, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). In addition, smoking tobacco can cause allergies like eczema, as well as respiratory disorders like asthma in babies. Even passive smoke is potentially dangerous to a developing fetus, as there is no safe level of tobacco inhalation.

Alcohol intake can also cause serious health problems, no matter the consumption level. Drinking alcoholic beverages also increases the risk of miscarriage and low birth weight. Notably, drinking alcohol during pregnancy can lead to congenital disabilities and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) as well. FASD causes physical, emotional, cognitive, behavioral, and learning disabilities in a child.

Other harmful chemicals can also cause congenital disabilities, such as spina bifida and cerebral palsy, as well as delayed development in newborns and children. They can also cause various cancers in mothers and children. Lead is especially dangerous to pregnant women, the unborn, and children. The source of anemia and high blood pressure in pregnant women may be lead. In the unborn, exposure to lead can result in learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and developmental delays. Moreover, household pesticides are known to contribute to an increased risk of certain cancers and attention deficit disorder (ADD) in children. Mercury exposure is also detrimental, potentially causing slowed development and learning difficulties in children.

Diagnosing and Treating Chemical Exposure while Pregnant

A pregnant woman’s doctor should be alerted to possible chemical exposure when the patient experiences nausea, vomiting, headache, stomachache, dizziness, blurred vision, skin rashes, respiratory ailments, or seizures. A pregnant woman may even go into a coma. The symptoms depend on the chemical and the length of exposure. Since many symptoms from chemical exposure appear like other illnesses, a physician must initially probe a patient’s medical history and physical appearance to assess chemical exposure reactions. For example, questioning the expecting mom about her chemical or medication intake is one way to find the source. To eliminate other sources, the physician may ask about prior birth complications.

After, they may order tests and imaging studies to detect chemical exposure. A doctor may detect skin irritations during a physical examination, while blood and urine tests detect chemicals. Ultrasounds and other imaging technology may be used to see the chemical’s effects on a fetus. Fetal development abnormalities may confirm a physician’s suspicion of chemical exposure.

Once identified, medical treatment for chemical exposure varies according to the type of exposure, pregnancy stage, and health of the mother and fetus. Treatments and medical interventions in toxic exposure cases include medications that treat symptoms and detoxification to remove the chemicals from the bloodstream, such as chelation for mercury exposure. The primary objective is dealing with the effects of harmful chemicals on the pregnant woman and her fetus, as well as removing the substances to avoid future exposure and its damaging impacts.

Who can be Held Responsible for Injuries from Chemical Exposure during Pregnancy?

For any treatment’s success, early diagnosis is essential. Identifying the source of illness or fetal developmental problems is critical to prevent further damage to mothers and their babies. Thus, when a medical provider delays in diagnosing or testing to find the source of potential problems in a pregnancy, they may be liable when birth defects or residual illnesses develop. In other cases, a defectively manufactured pharmaceutical or household product exposes a mother and her developing fetus to chemicals or toxic substances. In these situations, the product manufacturer may be held liable for resulting injuries.

While in other scenarios, an unsafe workplace creates the dangerous environment where a woman is exposed to chemicals while pregnant, meaning the employer may be sued in a lawsuit. For injuries resulting from chemical exposure during pregnancy, it may be difficult to prove which chemical caused damage, to locate the length and extent of exposure, and to establish who should be held responsible for the woman and her child’s compensation. For this reason, having an experienced attorney to investigate, gather evidence, and successfully prove your lawsuit is essential.

Contact our New Jersey Chemical Exposure in Pregnancy Lawyers to Discuss Your Case

If you or your child suffered congenital defects, illnesses, or complications due to chemical exposure during pregnancy in New Jersey, contact our knowledgeable lawyers as soon as possible to begin investigating the cause of your injuries. We are well-versed in claims against doctors, companies, product manufacturers, and others who cause harm to mothers and babies due to toxic exposure. Contact our legal team to discuss your case today. We provide consultations absolutely free of charge. Call (866)-708-8617 or contact us online for a free consultation.

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