Mother's Day: UCSF Collaborates with SafetyNEST 

By Dr. Tracey Woodruff, Director, UCSF Program on Reproductive Health & the Environment

On Mother’s Day, we pamper moms with breakfast in bed. We celebrate all that they do with flowers, chocolate, cards and kisses. Given their long list of responsibilities, mothers shouldn’t also need advanced degrees in chemistry to be able to protect their families from harm. Yet more than 85,000 industrial chemicals are currently used in consumer and commercial products—from cosmetics and food containers to furniture and building materials. Keeping track of and understanding the implications of the research presents enormous challenges.

We know that toxic chemical exposure is strongly linked to poor reproductive outcomes, including miscarriage, preterm birth, and abnormal fetal development. Prenatal exposure is also associated with serious medical and developmental conditions, including obesity, asthma, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Last fall, the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics, which includes reproductive health professionals from more than 125 countries and territories, highlighted the mounting evidence of harm caused by exposures to environmental chemicals in a statement calling for stronger global attention to the issue.

Doctors themselves often don’t know how to advise women on avoiding toxic exposures. A national survey of obstetricians found that most do not counsel pregnant patients on the issue; often they know little about it, do not know how to address it, or do not feel they have enough time during appointments. Only one in 15 reported having received any training in the subject matter.

That’s why UCSF’s Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment is collaborating with SafetyNEST. Our mission is for SafetyNEST to be the most trusted resource for every pregnant woman and her healthcare provider, to safeguard mother and baby’s health against toxic chemical exposure. 

SafetyNEST allows pregnant women and moms to talk online amongst themselves to discuss what they find on the road to prevention. SafetyNEST also will equip reproductive health providers with the tools they need to counsel their patients. SafetyNEST’s aim is to present the most-up-to-date facts in an easy-to-understand format, allowing women to access the information they need when they need it.

Tracey Woodruff, PhD, is a professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences at UCSF and the director of the university’s Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment. Her research involves evaluating prenatal exposures to environmental chemicals and related adverse pregnancy outcomes, and characterizing developmental risks. She previously worked at the US Environmental Protection Agency, where she was a senior scientist and policy advisor in the Office of Policy, and is currently an associate editor at Environmental Health Perspectives.

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