By Dr. Mercola
Montreal father Simon O’kanada was curious why his young son kept falling ill. When he broke open the top of his son’s “leak-proof” sippy cup, he found it covered in thick mold.
The photos have been trending on social media, joined by those from other parents who say they, too, have found mold in their children’s cups.1
The company in question, Tommee Tippee, responded by stating there are no problems with the cups when used with the recommended liquids and cleaned according to instructions.
However, they’re offering new transparent valves to parents who are concerned and reportedly plan to manufacture new cups with a two-piece valve that is, presumably, easier to clean.
Moldy Sippy Cups Are More Than Just Gross
Mold is certainly not something you want your child exposed to, particularly on a chronic basis.
Headaches, immune system disturbances, gastrointestinal problems, fatigue and shortness of breath are just some of the health issues linked to mold exposure. Plus, children are particularly susceptible to mold allergies.
The sippy-cup problem is easily remedied by using models in which you can see all the parts and cleaning them with soapy water after each use. Also be sure to let all the components dry fully before storing.
It’s easy to understand why the potential for moldy sippy cups struck a nerve with so many parents, as they’re trying to shield their children from unnecessary and avoidable harms.
It would be great, however, if some of the even more pressing dangers facing U.S. children received this type of attention — namely the risks of environmental toxins, premature birth and vitamin D deficiency.
Environmental Toxins Linked to Premature Birth
In the U.S., premature births have risen 36 percent over the past 25 years. Each year, more than half a million preemies are now born in the U.S., and it's the No. 1 killer of newborns.
Babies born prematurely face increased health risks both as infants and adults, including diabetes, heart disease and problems with brain development that could lead to learning, attention and psychiatric problems.2
While some premature births are due to known risk factors like multiple births, infection or poor nutrition, about half have no known cause.3 It’s likely that a number of factors play a role, including cumulative exposures to numerous environmental chemicals.
According to Dr. Bruce Lanphear, an environmental health expert at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, in the video above, “Because these [toxics] are insidious, or invisible, they are easily dismissed or ignored. But they can have grave effects on pregnancy and a child’s development.”
Environmental Health News continued:4
“While a pregnant woman’s exposure to small amounts of any single toxic may trim her child’s time in the womb by only three to seven days, he [Lanphear] explains, the toll from multiple exposures can add up.
'If we really want to prevent preterm birth, it’s about looking at the cumulative impact of various subtle risk factors,' Lanphear said in an interview. 'Collectively, they may help explain such large variations in preterm birth around the world.'"
What Types of Toxins Are Linked to Premature Birth?
A study published in the journal BJOG found higher maternal prenatal blood lead levels were associated with increased rates of premature birth.5 Maternal exposure to benzene or early exposure to aromatic solvents during pregnancy has also been linked to premature birth.6
Exposure to air pollution, specifically particulate matter with an aerodynamic diameter less than 10 μm, during pregnancy was also linked with premature birth,7 while avoiding fluoride makes premature birth significantly less likely.
Another study also found exposure to high levels of fine particulate air pollution in pregnancy is associated with a 19 percent increased risk of premature birth, with the greatest risk occurring with high third trimester exposure.8
There are many others that may also play a role. According to Environmental Health News:9
“Flame retardants, phthalates and bisphenol-A (BPA) are among other toxics emerging as possible culprits in early births … And just how these toxics might wreak their havoc on gestation is also under investigation.
Tracey Woodruff, director of the University of California, San Francisco Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment, is eyeing potential impacts on the development of the placenta — the support system for the fetus.
Flame retardants, phthalates, BPA and some pesticides are among chemicals that may mimic, and thereby disrupt, natural hormone messengers.
And the implantation and development of the placenta, along with the rest of the architecture that connects mother to fetus, are guided by hormones.
She and other experts recommend pregnant women take steps to lower their risk of giving birth preterm, from choosing unprocessed and organic foods, when possible, to avoiding smoking, alcohol and the use of pesticides around their home.”
Infographic: Top Toxins to Avoid If You’re Pregnant
If you’re pregnant or trying to conceive, trying to wade through the information pertaining to toxic exposures can be overwhelming. The infographic below can help to take some of your anxiety away, as it offers a concise list of some of the most damaging toxins that pregnant women should avoid.
Ideally, it’s important to reduce your chemical exposures and encourage detoxification before you become pregnant in order to protect your future children from your body’s toxic load.
With that in mind, here are the top toxins to avoid if you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant, including where you’re most likely to find them.
Embed this infographic on your website:
Click on the code area and press CTRL + C (for Windows) / CMD + C (for Macintosh) to copy the code.
Vitamin D Could Cut Rates of Premature Birth in Half
Research shows that vitamin D optimization could likely prevent half of the premature births in the U.S. Among African-American and Hispanic populations, 70 percent to 75 percent of all preterm births might be prevented with this simple intervention.
Similar findings have been documented among twin births, which have a higher risk for premature birth. A 2013 study found women carrying twins who had a minimum vitamin D level of 30 ng/ml (75 nmol/L) in their late second trimester had a 60 percent reduction in premature births.10
Separate research also added to past data linking low vitamin D levels during pregnancy with premature birth. Women with the lowest levels of vitamin D were 1.5 times more likely to deliver early than those with the highest levels, perhaps because vitamin D helps reduce bacterial infection in the placenta.11
Further, according to a 2015 study by researchers from GrassrootsHealth and the Medical University of South Carolina, women with vitamin D levels of 40 to 60 ng/ml have a 46 percent lower preterm birth rate than the general population.12 Further, women with a vitamin D level at or above 40 ng/ml by their third trimester had a 59 percent lower risk for premature birth than those with levels below 20 ng/ml. Moreover, as noted in a press release:13
"Another key finding was a steady increase of gestation time (how long the baby stayed in the womb) correlating to the rise of vitamin D up to around 40 ng/ml where it reached a plateau.”14
Vitamin D Helps Lower Risk of Allergies and Provides Numerous Other Benefits During Pregnancy
A higher intake of vitamin D-rich foods during pregnancy has been linked to a lower risk of allergies in children. The study found for each 100 IU per day of food-based vitamin D intake during the first and second trimesters (equivalent to the amount of vitamin D in an 8-ounce serving of milk) was associated with about a 20 percent lower risk of developing allergies by school age.15
In this case, the use of supplemental vitamin D was not associated with the benefit, although it’s unclear what type of supplemental vitamin D was studied. Other research suggests that vitamin D deficiency may be a primary underlying cause of asthma. Vitamin D will also help to upregulate your immune system, which may explain its potential role in allergies.
Research confirms there is a lifelong impact of vitamin D deficiency in pregnancy ranging from not only childhood allergies and asthma but also colds and flu, dental cavities, diabetes, and even strokes and cardiovascular disease in later life. It may also cut your risk of preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and prenatal infections by approximately 50 percent.
How to Optimize Your Vitamin D Levels During Pregnancy
Raising vitamin D levels among pregnant women is of particular concern, as deficiency affects not only the mother, increasing her risk of complications during pregnancy or delivery, it also has short- and long-term ramifications for her child's health. Vitamin D screening is key.
This is the only way to determine whether you might be deficient or not, and regular testing is important to make sure whatever dosage of vitamin D you're taking is sufficient to reach clinically relevant levels.
GrassrootsHealth recommends maintaining a vitamin D blood serum level of 40 to 60 ng/ml to protect your and your baby's health. However, according to previous studies, your levels need to be above 50 ng/ml to protect your baby from serious complications, such as premature delivery and preeclampsia.16
So please, if you’re pregnant, make sure to get your 25-hydroxy D levels checked. While optimizing your vitamin D through sensible sun exposure is best, if this isn’t possible Dr. Bruce Hollis’ research indicates that 50 percent of women can achieve this level with 4,000 IUs daily during pregnancy and 6,400 IUs (for nursing mothers) of vitamin D3 on a daily basis. Again, you’ll need to have your vitamin D levels tested to be sure you’re within the optimal range.
You can also find some vitamin D in mushrooms, fish, eggs and dairy products, and there may be vitamin D in lesser-known food sources as well, like meat. However, you should have your levels tested and monitored during pregnancy and get appropriate sun exposure and take supplemental vitamin D3, if necessary, to reach optimal levels.
I firmly believe optimizing your vitamin D during pregnancy is one of the most important things you can do for the health of your child.
How to Enroll in Protect Our Children NOW!
Physicians across the U.S. are encouraged to enroll their pregnant patients in the Protect Our Children NOW! project, which seeks to resolve vitamin D deficiency among pregnant women and children, and raise global awareness about the health risks associated with vitamin D deficiency. The project was initiated by Carole Baggerly of GrassrootsHealth, which has a panel of 42 vitamin D researchers that provide scientific advice.
The project seeks to engage women in “a value-changing project of Good Health vs. Treating Illness." In other words, optimizing your vitamin D status helps improve your health and prevent disease, which is a lot easier and less expensive than waiting for something to go wrong and then trying to treat the problem.
If you are 12 to 17 weeks pregnant, at least 18 years of age, and currently reside in the U.S., you may enroll in this fully sponsored project at no cost to you. Participation in the program includes:
- Free vitamin D blood tests
- Your and your newborn's new questionnaire entries
- Reporting of results directly to you
- Free vitamin D supplements
Little-Known Sippy Cup Dangers
Minimizing your exposure to toxins and optimizing vitamin D levels during pregnancy could radically improve the health of both mothers and their babies. Getting back to sippy cups, however, their risks are certainly relevant since they’re so widely used.
Many sippy cups are made of plastic with questionable chemicals, which is one of their primary risks. However, they’re also a leading source of injury. One study found that an average of 2,270 children under 3 are treated in emergency rooms every year due to injuries related to bottles, pacifiers and sippy cups.17
In all, more than 45,000 such injuries were reported from 1991 to 2010, which equates to about one child harmed every four hours. Since the study only looked at emergency room visits, it's likely there were actually far more injuries as well, which were treated either at home or by a pediatrician. Most often (in 86 percent of cases), the injury occurred when a child fell while using the product, often leading to a laceration of the mouth.
As you might suspect, 1-year-olds were injured most often, likely because they're still unsteady on their feet and are more prone to falling down. Bottles were the most common cause of injury, followed by pacifiers and then sippy cups.
It's estimated that half of 1- and 2-year-olds still use a bottle, while more than three-quarters in this age group use a sippy cup,18 even though the American Academy of Pediatrics officially recommends transitioning to a regular, lidless cup around age 1.
The researchers reasoned that up to 80 percent of the injuries could be prevented if these guidelines were followed, primarily because most parents would make sure that their young children were seated while using a lidless cup to avoid spills, and this, in turn, greatly reduces the risk of injury.
So, to reduce your child’s risk of injury due to a sippy cup, only give your children a sippy cup when they are seated and transition to a lidless cup around the time they turn 1 year old.