Protecting reproductive health from dangerous chemicals

I was privileged to attend a Congressional briefing in Washington, D.C. yesterday, specific to toxic chemical exposure and reproductive health. The briefing was coordinated through the Reproductive Health Technologies Project and the Guttmacher Institute, as well as Congressional Reps. Louise Slaughter (D,NY), Diana DeGette (D,CO), Lois Capps (D,CA) and Rosa DeLauro (D,CT).

The panel of speakers was comprised of moderator Kirsten Moore, President & CEO of the Reproductive Health Technologies Project; Katie Huffling RN, MS, CNM, Environmental Health Program Coordinator of the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, Celinda Lake, President of Lake Research Partners, Andy Igrejas, Director of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, and Elizabeth Nash, Public Policy Associate of the Guttmacher Institute.

One of the stated goals of yesterday's briefing was to move forward, through verifiable scientific data as well as statistical analysis of public opionion, regulatory changes that could positively impact upon the levels of toxic chemicals that Americans are routinely exposed to, thereby reducing risks to reproductive health and overall health.

The most significant fact brought forth to me personally, was the verification that over 200 scientific studies have definitively and negatively implicated BPA (bisphenol A) in cases of cancer, metabollic disorders, premature puberty, male factor infertility and reproductive health issues.

A number of important findings and action plans were brought forth by both the speakers and the audience. These included:

NIEHS (National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences) - All complex diseases have been shown to have both a genetic and environmental component. A growing body of research is beginning to suggest that many adult diseases and disorders, including asthma, diabetes and obesity, may be traced back to exposures that occur during development. Research supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and others are finding that in utero or neonatal exposures to environmental changes may make people more susceptible to diseases later in life. In addition, a growing body of evidence suggests that numerous man-made chemicals may interfere with the endocrine system. Scientists refer to these chemicals as endocrine disruptors. Endocrine disruption is an important public health concern.

Guttmacher Institute Policy Review - In a long-awaited announcement, the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officially acknowledged concern about the effects of bisphenol A on the health of fetuses, infants and young children. The statement marked a notable refersal of the agency's earlier position that BPA did not pose a health risk to humans. Equally notable, however, was the fact that the FDA took no steps to restrict BPA's use. Instead, it provided recommendations for parents to reduce exposure and said the government would continue to study the chemical's toxicity.

Safer Chemicals Healthy Families - A reformed Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) would serve as the backbone of a sound and comprehensive chemicals policy that protects public health and the environment, while restoring the luster of safety to U.S. goods in the world market.

There was much more. It is understandable that the American public is, and should be, concerned about our daily toxin exposure, and the number one action item on anyone's list should be to keep in touch with your Congressional and Senatorial representatives about this issue. Everyone needs an action plan. Several potential and key, proactive behavioral changes were suggested by the Reproductive Health Technologies Project:

  • Refuse Receipts, as the powdery coating on them contains BPA.
  • Keep Plastic Cool, as heat causes chemicals to leach out of them and into food
  • Leave Shoes at the Door, to keep pesticides and other chemicals out of your home
  • Don't Be Fooled by Fragrance, and avoid cosmetics and cleaning products that list fragrance as an ingredient. It is code for phthalates, another known endocrine disruptor
  • Look Up Your Lipstick - check it out at
  • Filter Your Drinking Water, to remove common contaminants like arsenic and lead
  • Buy BPA Free, if your product does not contain BPA it will say so on the label
  • Toss the Teflon, as this chemical has been linked to cancer and early menopause
  • Limit Canned Food, another known source of BPA
  • Dust, Vacuum and Mop Frequently, to cut down on chemcials that accumulate in household dust

Path2Parenthood is proud to be aligned with powerful, proactive advocates who are working for the public good. For more information on endocrine disruptors and fertility, visit Path2Parenthood's library.

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