UN and WHO: Chemicals That Harm Repro Health a “Global Threat”


When we think about threats to our reproductive health and freedom, some of the things that first come to mind include anti-choice politicians, the Hyde Amendment, and societal abortion stigma.

But among the threats we don’t think about often enough are toxic chemicals lurking in our everyday products, from our soap to our sofas.

This week, an international team of experts, in conjunction with the World Health Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme, released a report declaring hormone-disrupting chemicals a “global threat” that should be addressed. That’s right: a global threat.

Man-made chemicals have become a part of our everyday life, but many of them impact our bodies’ hormonal systems. These chemicals are called endocrine disruptors, and their interference with our hormone system is not without consequence.

The report confirms that mounting scientific evidence links exposures to endocrine-disrupting chemicals with adverse health effects, including harm to reproductive health.

Reproductive health issues induced by exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals include breast and prostate cancer, endometriosis, infertility, and early puberty.

Communities of color and low-income communities are disproportionately exposed to toxic chemicals through their jobs, homes, and personal care products. This contributes to health disparities among communities in which individuals often lack access to health insurance.

Points of exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals are numerous and include everyday activities like eating, working on a laptop, talking on the phone, showering, cleaning, and even sleeping. Food containers, computers, cell phones, cosmetics, personal care products, mattresses, and other furniture all contain toxic chemicals that are linked to reproductive health deterioration.

Even scarier is that the research presented in the report may be only the tip of the iceberg. Only a small fraction of the hundreds of thousands of chemicals in existence today have been tested for endocrine-disrupting activity or safety.

And because of ineffective and outdated chemical regulation policies, manufacturers are not required to identify all the chemicals in consumer products or even test them for human safety.

This leaves us largely in the dark about the extent to which endocrine-disrupting chemicals exist in our products and how we can protect ourselves.

Shopping our way out of the problem is not viable; exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals is too ubiquitous, and few individuals have the privilege of time and money to buy chemical-free products, even if they were more widely available.

But the ability of women to become pregnant when they want to, have a healthy pregnancy, and maintain their overall reproductive health is a key component of reproductive justice.

The only way to ensure all of us are safeguarded from the global threat that endocrine-disrupting chemicals present to our reproductive health and freedom is through chemical policy reform.

The Safer Chemicals Healthy Families coalition is working to repair our broken chemical regulation system and pass the Safe Chemicals Act, a bill that would put common sense limits on toxic chemicals.

Urge your Senators to support the Safe Chemicals Act today.

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Follow Sara Alcid on twitter: @SaraAlcid