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Pregnant. Does inhaling burning smell for a long time cause any long term development issues?

Answered by
Dr. Aarti Abraham


Practicing since :1998

Answered : 6012 Questions

Posted on Sun, 17 Nov 2013 in Pregnancy
Question: Hi i am very worried right now. I am 36 weeks pregnant and was doig laundry when my husband and I noticed a burning smell. We couldnt figure out what it was but realized it was coming from the dryer. About an hr later when the load in the dryer was finished i took out the items to fold them. Turns out the plastic on a waterproof mattress cover melted and ripped and clearly the smell was coming from that. I immediately threw it away outside the house and threw everything else that was in the same load back in the washer again. Its been about 2 hours and the smell is still lingering. We opened all the windows and have the fans going. I am freaking out that inhaling this could cause harm to my baby esp long term development issues. Am i being over paranoid or should we get a hotel for the night? My husband doesnt smell it as much as I do and thinks its because im much more sensitive and so worried right now.
Answered by Dr. Aarti Abraham 29 minutes later
Brief Answer:

Detailed Answer:
Thanks for your query.
While burning, certain types of plastics release toxic fumes which can be detrimental to the health of your unborn baby.
However, unless the exposure is prolonged and long term, do not worry.
Just a sporadic event will not harm your baby, especially at 36 weeks, when it is fully developed and no vital body systems are at risk.
Am sure that having turned out the machine and discarded the load, the source is now obliterated.
Also, the windows open and the fans going would have circulated fresh air in the room long back.
During pregnancy the sense of smell is heightened for sure, and you may naturally perceive the odour more strongly than your husband.
However, I do not see any reason to get a hotel right now.
Just go for a stroll in the fresh air, and burn some nice incense or aromatic oils overnight in your room ( orange or cinnamon will do the trick ).
Sleep with the windows open and the fan on.
All the best and do not worry.
Wish you good luck.
Please feel free to ask for further clarifications.
Above answer was peer-reviewed by : Dr. Chakravarthy Mazumdar
Follow up: Dr. Aarti Abraham 22 hours later
Thank you for your response! We ended up spending the night at a hotel because not only did i burn plastic in the dryer, but the smell was also coming from plastic that my husband burned in te dishwasher. About an hour later i opened up the dishwater and a gust of burnt plastic went into my face. He def smelled it after that so we stayed at a hotel to be safe. All through the night i kept waking up because i felt like i kept breathing in chemicals. I lost my sense of smell even and my nose was stinging so we went to the hospital. Doc wasnt too worried and said the same thing about how my sense of smell is so beyond heightened. We came back to the house today with everything airing out and the smell seemed to be mostly gone. He didnt smell it anymore but i still kinda do. Now, its been over 24 hrs and my nose still seems to be stinging and i feel i still smell some chemicals. The doctor said i shouldnt smell it after 24 hours so this is making me a little nervous. Were debating spending yet another night in a hotel, but i feel like its just the fumes trapped in my nasal. Is there anything i should do to try to relieve this and is it unhealthy to be back at our house? I feel much better after you explained that everything with the baby is already developed so it shouldnt affect him. I guess i may be paranoid, but i am worried it could have neurological effects. Sorry for the long explanation, already worried to death about my baby and hes not even born yet! =P
Answered by Dr. Aarti Abraham 55 minutes later
Brief Answer:

Detailed Answer:
Hey , relax !
I repeat that even after the second incident in the dishwasher ( that was definitely some strong plastic burning spree you had ! ) , the risk of your baby developing ANY abnormalities is almost zero.
This is because you are at 36 weeks, and even from the sporadic incident ( once or twice in the entire pregnancy ) , no risks have been reported.
Adverse events have been reported only from prolonged and long term exposure to toxic fumes.
Regarding the sensitivity you seem to be having, it is a combination of two factors -
1. Pregnancy which in itself heightens your smell sense.
2. A strong noxious smell lingers around longer than a pleasant one.
Do not spend another night at the hotel, as your house has been thoroughly aired ( just check that there is no further source present ).
To relieve the lingering unpleasantness in the nasal cavities - as I suggested earlier, burn some incense or subtle aromatic oils - orange and cinnamon as suggested.
Run a nice bath with some aroma therapy oil or some nice bath salts.
Alternatively, have a massage over the hands and feet with some patchouli or lavender oil, oiling your hair too.
Sprinkle a few drops onto your pillow and sheets.
Take a steam inhalation to clear the nasal passage.
Am sure you would be fine within the day.
And dont worry about the baby - the fumes wont harm him I assure you, but the stress and worrying just might !
All the best dear.
Please feel free to contact me directly anytime on this platform , using the following link -

take care.
Above answer was peer-reviewed by : Dr. Chakravarthy Mazumdar
Follow up: Dr. Aarti Abraham 18 hours later
Thank you again Doctor! It has almost been two full days later and I am glad I didn't go spend another night at a hotel. I still haven't got my sense of smell totally back, but I am relieved and not stressing anymore. My husband and I will be ore cautious in the future before we burn the place down! haha Thank you for your time.
Answered by Dr. Aarti Abraham 8 hours later
Brief Answer:

Detailed Answer:
Am glad you are back to normal ( mentally and stress - wise ) I mean.
Wish you all the luck and XXXXXXX for your impending motherhood !
Again, I repeat, your baby will be absolutely fine.
Your sense of smell too will be fine soon.
take care.
Above answer was peer-reviewed by : Dr. Chakravarthy Mazumdar

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