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Women's Health

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Simple Lifestyle May Limit Exposure to Chemicals

Mennonite Community Study Suggests Link Between Simple Life, Lower BPA Levels

Follow in the OOM Community's Footsteps continued...

"You can eat like a Mennonite even if you don't grow your own food," she says.

According to Swan, pregnant women should be most concerned about their level of exposure to these chemicals. "This is the period of the most rapid development and when sensitivity is the greatest."

Members of the Mennonite community do not typically travel by cars or trucks. Instead, they get from place to place by horse and buggy, walking, or by bicycle. Half of the pregnant OOM participants had been in a car or truck within the two days before urine collection. These individuals had higher levels of the chemicals than their counterparts who did not travel by car or truck before collection, the study shows.

"These people are back to nature and that is why their health is so good," says Joyce L. Wade, a certified nurse midwife in the OOM community. She is based in Middlesex, N.Y. "The more we can get back to nature, the healthier we can be."

Debate About Chemicals Continues

Yes, members of the OOM community may well lead healthier lifestyles, but the new findings add nothing to the debate about health risks associated with any chemicals, says Gilbert Ross, MD. He is the executive director and medical director of the American Council on Science and Health, a New York City-based consumer education-public health organization.

"The OOM community has population-wide behavioral and lifestyle parameters that result in a lower exposure to certain ubiquitous environmental chemicals and substances. These include fragrances and certain food preparation items, and compounds from motor vehicle emissions," he says in an email.

But "these well-known facts add nothing whatsoever to the controversy fomented by anti-chemical activists and advocates."

The new study does not document any risks associated with exposure, he says. "The insinuation that somehow the lower exposures of this group due to their simple and vigorous lifestyle are somehow responsible for the allegedly lower rates of certain illnesses and conditions, such as diabetes, is not science. It is speculation."

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