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Reproductive Health For All

Posted on Jan 14, 2010
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At Worksafe we have a saying that reflects our profound concern for the well-being of the thousands of workers of reproductive age who are exposed every day to toxic chemicals on the job: “When you're pregnant, every day is ‘bring your child to work’ day.”

Rapidly mounting evidence shows the potent, harmful effects of chronic exposure to even tiny doses of reproductive and developmental toxicants—including those found in many pesticides and cleaning products. We believe this serious issue calls for more reproductive health education for workers, their healthcare providers, and the policymakers whose job it is to protect their constituents.

Preventable conditions like miscarriage, infertility, sterility, intrauterine growth retardation, structural malformations, and life-long developmental delay make the American dream of raising a healthy family impossible for many.  Concerns for reproductive health are even greater for young farmworkers whose jobs put them in regular contact with agricultural chemicals that pose reproductive and neurological dangers, cancer, and other risks. For pregnant agricultural workers, “bringing your child to work” can mean significant in utero exposure to a host of reproductive and developmental toxins.

The risks of "bringing your child to work" are apparent in a NIOSH study of over 3,000 acute pesticide poisonings, where female workers faced nearly twice the risk of being poisoned as their male counterparts.

The study concluded that the actual incidence of pesticide poisoning is much higher than reported. Alarmingly, in utero exposures to reproductive toxicants can cause fetal harm without any symptoms of toxic poisoning in the pregnant woman.

Male farmworkers are also at risk for acute poisoning or exposure that shows few symptoms. In one troubling example, infertility and sub-fertility are becoming more and more common among young and otherwise healthy male farmworkers in Pajaro Valley, California.

In addition to poisoning, workers face other barriers to achieving reproductive health. These obstacles include inadequate toxicity testing and data disclosure, workers' cultural and language barriers to health education and information, and exposure to a combination of chemical products resulting in unknown consequences. Addressing these related challenges to health through coordinated education campaigns are key in the fight for safe jobs and healthy families. Click here to read about Worksafe's recent efforts to educate workers and healthcare providers about reproductive health threats and workers' rights.

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