Toxins exist naturally in the environment, however, toxin exposure has increased in developed countries due to the increased use of pesticides and production of synthetic chemicals to manufacture foods and other products. Studies show environmental toxins result in epigenetic alterations to DNA leading to many chronic health issues and disorders.
Toxins can affect the functioning of the brain, heart, lungs, nervous system, and can also alter the bacteria that compose an individual’s microbiome. Furthermore, some toxins act as endocrine disruptors, meaning that they interfere with the body’s biological signals and hormonal system.
The toxins a mother encounters throughout her life will accumulate in her body. This is known as her “body burden.” A mother’s body burden will affect the environment of her womb, which may have a direct impact on the development of her baby. A fetus is particularly susceptible to toxicity because its organs are developing and it has not yet developed its brain-blood barrier.
One study from the Journal Environmental Health Perspectives, has found that children who were exposed to more toxins in the womb had more autistic-like behaviors. Another study found that close proximity to certain pesticides during pregnancy increases the risk of having a child with autism by 60%. Toxin exposure during pregnancy is also associated with high blood pressure, ADHD, heart disease, and various mental disorders. The Environmental Working Group identified 287 toxins in an umbilical cord. Of these chemicals, 180 are known carcinogens to humans and animals, 217 are toxic to the nervous system, and 208 are known to cause birth defects in animal tests. Studies also show that pesticide exposure impacts sperm quality in men, which can affect pregnancy outcomes.