Environmental health attitudes and behaviors: findings from a large pregnancy cohort study

Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol. 2014 May;176:119-25. doi: 10.1016/j.ejogrb.2014.02.029. Epub 2014 Feb 26.


Objective: Environmental chemicals are widely found in food and personal care products and may have adverse effects on fetal development. Our aim was to examine women's attitudes about these chemicals and ask whether they try to limit their exposure during pregnancy.

Study design: A multi-center cohort of women in the first trimester of pregnancy completed questionnaires including items on attitudes and behaviors related to environmental chemicals. Multivariable logistic regression models were used to examine: (1) whether sociodemographic variables predict environmental health attitudes and behaviors; and (2) whether women's attitudes about environmental chemicals affect their lifestyle behaviors, particularly diet and personal care product use.

Results: Of the 894 subjects, approximately 60% strongly agreed that environmental chemicals are dangerous and 25% strongly felt they were impossible to avoid. Adjusting for covariates, educated women were more likely to believe that environmental chemicals are dangerous (OR 1.74, 95% CI 1.13, 2.66), and that belief, in turn, was associated with a number of healthy behaviors including choosing organic foods, foods in safe plastics, and chemical-free personal care products, and limiting fast food intake. Younger women were more likely to believe that environmental chemicals are impossible to avoid (OR 1.04, 95% CI 1.00, 1.08).

Conclusions: Women's attitudes about environmental chemicals may impact their choices during pregnancy. Overcoming a lack of concern about environmental chemicals, particularly among certain sociodemographic groups, is important for the success of clinical or public health prevention measures.

Keywords: Attitudes; Behaviors; Environmental chemicals; Pregnancy.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cohort Studies
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Environmental Health*
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy*