Environment: Home and Work



Why should I worry about environmental hazards at work?

What substances should I be aware of at work or while enjoying my hobbies?

How do I know if I'm being exposed to dangerous levels of these substances?

Are there any environmental factors I should be aware of at home?

What is listeriosis?

How can I avoid getting listeriosis?

What is toxoplasmosis?

How can I avoid getting toxoplasmosis?

Can I relax in a hot tub or sauna?




Why should I worry about environmental hazards at work?

Some substances found in the workplace may affect fertility.

Additionally, if you don't realize you are pregnant, you could unintentionally expose your unborn baby to potentially dangerous substances during its vulnerable first few weeks of growth and development. This could increase your risk of miscarriage, birth defects, low birthweight, or premature birth.

What substances should I be aware of at work or while enjoying my hobbies?

Some substances can be harmful to you once you become pregnant (and to your baby), so it is good to become informed about these potential risks while you are planning your pregnancy.  You should be aware if at work, or when enjoying one of your hobbies, you are exposed to:
  • Toxic substances such as lead, mercury, pesticides, paint and paint thinners, or dry-cleaning fluids
  • Ionizing radiation as found around X-ray machines or in nuclear medicine procedures
  • Anesthetic gases used for medical and dental procedures
  • Childhood viruses encountered by teachers and health care workers
  • Excessive secondhand smoke or side-stream smoke from others' cigarettes, cigars, or pipes
  • Strenuous work, including prolonged standing or heavy lifting

How do I know if I'm being exposed to dangerous levels of these substances?

Raise the subject with your health care provider and check our resources section for Enviornment: Home and Work to find out where you can get further information on specific environmental hazards.

Are there any environmental factors I should be aware of at home?

While you are planning your pregnancy, it is helpful to know what things within your environment you will need to avoid as soon as you become pregnant.  Although these environmental factors should not affect your health pre-pregnancy or your ability to conceive, domestic health hazards you'll want to avoid as soon as you are pregnant include:
  • Household cleaners with strong odors, paint, and hobby glue
  • Childhood viruses contracted from school-age children
  • Raw fish or meat and unpasteurized milk as they can contain bacterial contaminants such as listeria
  • Cat litter boxes as they can expose you to toxoplasmosis
  • Heat from hot tubs or saunas

What is listeriosis?

Listeriosis is a disease carried by the bacterium listeria. The possible consequences are severe and include miscarriage. You can get listeriosis from eating some soft cheeses, undercooked meat and fish, and prepared meat products such as cold cuts and sausages. It is not particularly common, but about one-third of the cases in the United States occur in pregnant women.

How can I avoid getting listeriosis?

To stay clear of listeriosis, you should:
  • Thoroughly cook raw food from animal sources.
  • Thoroughly cook leftover or ready-to-eat foods, such as hot dogs.
  • Heat all meals to steaming.
  • Strictly observe expiration dates on prepared food.
  • Avoid unpasteurized milk and milk products.
  • Avoid unpasteurized cider and apple juice.
  • Avoid soft cheeses such as Feta, Brie, Camembert, blue-veined, and Mexican-style.
  • Wash all raw fruit and vegetables.
  • Store uncooked meats separately from all other foods.
  • Use hot water and soap to wash your hands, knives, and cutting boards after handling uncooked foods.
  • Clean kitchen sponges by washing them in the dishwasher.

What is toxoplasmosis?

Toxoplasmosis is a common parasite that can seriously harm an unborn baby. The parasite is most often spread through exposure to cat droppings or eating contaminated raw and undercooked meat.  If you have always been around indoor/outdoor cats, it is likely you already have antibodies against contracting toxoplasmosis. 

Many people who have it don't know it; symptoms are mild and flu-like. If you've had it in the past you may now be immune.  Pre-pregnancy testing for toxoplasmosis is not routine, so if you think you may have been exposed, ask your health care provider for a test.

How can I avoid getting toxoplasmosis?

There are a number of ways you can avoid getting toxoplasmosis if you think you may be pregnant:
  • Have someone else empty the cat's litter box. If you have to do it yourself, wear rubber gloves and a protective breathing mask and wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.
  • Take glove and mask precautions when gardening since the soil may be contaminated.
  • Don't feed your cat raw or undercooked meat.
  • Keep the cat indoors as it can be infected by eating birds or mice.
  • Thoroughly cook raw food from animal sources.
  • Thoroughly cook left-over or ready-to-eat foods, such as hot dogs.
  • Avoid unpasteurized milk and milk products.
  • Avoid soft cheeses such as Feta, Brie, Camembert, blue-veined and Mexican-style.
  • Store uncooked meats separately from all other foods.
  • Use hot water and soap to wash your hands, knives, and cutting boards after handling uncooked foods.

Can I relax in a hot tub or sauna?

If you are in the early stages of pregnancy, prolonged exposure to high temperatures can lead to neural tube defects in the baby.

You can, however, enjoy a calming soak in a bathtub with water no warmer than 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Avoid, or at least limit your time to ten minutes, in saunas, steam baths, and hot tubs.
Most recent page update: 10/26/2012


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