Many pregnant women consume tuna, salmon, canned food, tap water, caffeine and
alcohol containing substances known to cause birth defects, U.S. researchers
Lead author Sarah Santiago, a Ph.D. candidate, and Kelly Huffman, an assistant
professor, both at the University of California, Riverside, and undergraduate
student Grace Park of the University of California, San Diego, surveyed 200
pregnant or recently pregnant women ages 18-40 -- 87 percent Hispanic -- in
Downey, Calif., from December 2011 to December 2012.
Nearly all had a high school degree, and about one-fourth had a college or
post-graduate degree. More than two-thirds had an annual income of $50,000 or
Using a food questionnaire, participants reported how often and when during
their pregnancy they ingested certain foods, beverages and medications.
The study, published in Nutrition Journal, found about three-quarters ate fish,
typically tuna, tilapia and salmon; three-fourths ate canned goods, 12 percent
consumed tap water, 80 percent consumed caffeinated beverages and about 6
percent reported drinking alcohol sometime during their pregnancy, the study
Most reported taking prenatal vitamins, nearly half reported taking an
over-the-counter medication -- primarily acetaminophen -- at least once and most
reported taking prescription medications at least once.
"Tuna contains methylmercury, and prenatal exposure has been associated with
numerous developmental deficits, while 'staggering' levels of polychlorinated
biphenyls -- PCBs -- were found in farmed salmon," the study said.
"Metal food cans are lined with a plastic that contains bisphenol A, which
leaches from the lining in cans into the food. In Downey, eight pollutants found
in drinking water exceeded the health guidelines set by federal and state
"Prenatal medical professionals should discourage the consumption of dangerous
foods, beverages and medications that women commonly report consuming during
pregnancy," the researchers said.