Last spring, as the tsunami-damaged reactors at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant began leaking radioactive particles, that nation’s pregnant women ran for the hills—or at least for faraway cities like Osaka. Moms-to-be in the U.S. are safely distant from fallout or food contamination, but what about X-rays and their high-energy ionizing radiation that damages DNA? Or the low-energy microwave radiation from cellphones and Wi-Fi? Here are some guidelines for a safer pregnancy:
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Medical X-rays are the most common source of man-made radiation exposure, and obstetric experts suggest avoiding them when possible. There’s generally a low increase in risk of birth defects when a mom-to-be has X-rays, though it depends on timing (earlier is riskier) and amount of exposure. In utero exposure can increase the offspring’s cancer risk later in life, and while the risk from a single X-ray is tiny, you’ll want to err on the side of caution.