Harmful Substances in the Home or Workplace

Cleaning agents

Do not use chlorinated hydrocarbon cleaning fluids.


Do not work with pesticides. If you have pesticides used in your home, leave the house for several hours and have good ventilation in the home.


Avoid photographic solvents which contain bromides, as these can be dangerous to the pregnancy. When working with ceramics or stained glass, you may absorb excessive amounts of lead and arsenic.


Oil based paints may be harmful and should not be used. Spray paint, which contains M-butyl ketone, should not be used. Turpentine and other liquid paint stripping agents also contain Methylchloride and are dangerous to use with pregnancy. Latex (water based) paints may be used.

Cat box litter

Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic infection that can be transmitted to people from cat feces. Pregnant women should not empty the cat litter box. Contact with the cat feces while gardening can also transmit toxoplasmosis. Wear gloves while working in the yard or garden.

Occupational hazards/chemicals

In November 1985, the OSHA Standards Act or Right to Know Law was passed. This law gives any worker the right to know what kinds of chemicals she works with daily, and what known health hazards may cause. It is both your responsibility and your employer’s responsibility to educate yourselves about any chemicals and their hazards in your work place, especially during pregnancy. They should be able to provide you with Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) that provide you with information on any chemical to which you are exposed.

Harmful Substances (Personal)


There is no safe level of alcohol consumption while pregnant.


Smoking reduces the amount of oxygen available to the baby. Smoking results in increased risk of premature delivery, miscarriage, stillbirth and low birth weight babies. It is not safe to smoke cigarettes or cigars during pregnancy. Studies have shown that infants who are exposed to cigarette or cigar smoke are high risk for developing lung disease and are 2-3 times more likely to die of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

Nicotine patches

Patches are not safe to use during pregnancy.


The studies on caffeine use are inconclusive, although some indicate that high doses of caffeine may increase the frequency of birth defects. It is recommended that you switch to decaffeinated products, or try to limit your intake to no more than 200-400 mgs. of caffeine per day, which is one to two cups of regular coffee.

Artificial Sweeteners

Moderate use of foods and beverages sweetened with Nurtrasweet (Aspartame) or Splenda has not been shown to be a hazard to the mother or baby. The exception would be any woman who has been diagnosed with PKU as an infant or child. Saccharin is not recommended in pregnancy or when breast-feeding. Because some diet items contain both Nutrasweet and Saccharin, you will need to read the label before consuming diet food or drink. Diet fountain drinks may contain Saccharin. Stevian, a natural sweetener, has been deemed by the FDA as sage during pregnancy.

Undercooked meat

Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic infection that can be transferred to humans through eating uncooked or undercooked meat.

Certain Fish

Swordfish, shark, king mackerel and tilefish may contain high levels of mercury and should be avoided. The FDA advises that pregnancy women can safely eat 12 ounces per week of other cooked fish. You should limit fresh fish caught by family members to one serving (3-6 oz.) per week. YOU SHOULD NOT EAT FISH CAUGHT IN INDIANA RIVERS. It is considered safe to eat up to two cans of regular tuna or one can of albacore tuna per week.


This is an illness caused by bacteria found in certain foods – specifically unpasteurized milk, soft cheese, raw vegetables and shellfish. Symptoms can occur weeks after you are exposed and can include fever, chills, muscle aches and back pain. There may be no symptoms at all. When a pregnant woman is infected, the disease can cause serious problems for the fetus, including miscarriage or stillbirth. To prevent listeriosis, wash all fruits and vegetables before using them.

While you are pregnant, don’t eat:

Unpasteurized milk or soft cheeses, raw or undercooked meat or poultry, prepared meats such as hot dogs or deli meats unless they are reheated until steaming hot. ALWAYS be sure to wash your hands and any utensils, countertops or cutting boards that have been in contact with uncooked meats.


It is illegal and is a dangerous drug that crosses the placenta and will appear in breast milk. It should be completely avoided.

Street drugs

They are illegal, dangerous to your pregnancy and should be completely avoided.

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