Skip to main content

Pregnancy: Chemicals, Cosmetics, and Radiation


Chemical exposure

Protect yourself as much as you can from harmful chemicals.

  • Avoid pesticides, household cleaners, and paint.

    Fumes from these substances can be harmful, especially in the first trimester of pregnancy.

    Use chemical-free cleaning alternatives while you're pregnant. If you must use chemical cleaners, wear gloves, ventilate the area, and avoid inhaling fumes.

  • Limit your lead exposure.

    Lead may be present in old paint, metal water pipes, and other substances. Lead can increase the risk of miscarriage. It can also be passed to the fetus during pregnancy.

    If you have concerns about lead exposure, talk to your doctor. A simple blood test can find out the amount of lead in your blood.

  • Avoid fish high in mercury.

    These include shark, swordfish, king mackerel, marlin, orange roughy, and bigeye tuna, as well as tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico. They have high levels of mercury, which can harm your fetus.

    It's okay to eat up to 8 to 12 ounces a week of fish that are low in mercury or up to 4 ounces a week of fish that have medium levels of mercury. Some fish that are low in mercury are salmon, shrimp, canned light tuna, cod, and tilapia. Some fish that have medium levels of mercury are halibut and white albacore tuna.

    For more advice about eating fish, you can visit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website.

  • Avoid alcohol, marijuana or other drugs, tobacco, and vaping.

    Talk to your doctor if you need help to quit.

  • Be careful with cosmetics.

    There is not very much research about the use of products such as nail polish, artificial nails, hair dyes, and curly or relaxed hair perms during pregnancy. But they all contain strong chemicals.

    It's a good idea to reduce your exposure to these chemicals. If you use them, be sure the room is well-ventilated.

Radiation exposure: X-rays, air travel, and electrical appliances

A single X-ray, such as a dental X-ray, will not harm your fetus. But it's a good idea to avoid X-rays during pregnancy. Many X-rays can be delayed until after pregnancy.

If X-rays are needed, be sure to tell the technician that you are pregnant. The X-rays can be done with a lead apron that shields your belly.

The radiation from electrical appliances such as televisions, computers, or electric blankets has not been shown to cause birth defects. You can use an electric blanket to warm the bed, but it is a good idea to turn it off when you get into bed so that you don't become overheated.

Some long airplane flights can expose you to radiation. If you have to fly often, talk to your doctor or midwife.


Current as of: July 10, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.


PeaceHealth endeavors to provide comprehensive health care information, however some topics in this database describe services and procedures not offered by our providers or within our facilities because they do not comply with, nor are they condoned by, the ethics policies of our organization.