Exposure to Toxic Chemicals and Fertility

A rise in infertility, lower sperm counts, and genital abnormalities in babies point to something amiss and scientists think that bad air could account for the phenomenon. A Greenpeace report released in 2006 suggests that we are being exposed to a host of hazardous manmade chemicals such as are used in carpets, electronic goods, perfumes, clothing and many other consumer items.

The Greenpeace study, entitled, "Fragile: Our reproductive health and chemical exposure," depicts a worrisome scenario in which an increase in all sorts of reproductive health disorders are reflected in the burgeoning presence of unnatural chemicals in our environment.

Sperm Counts Have Fallen By 50 Percent In 50 Years.

It's difficult to ignore the statistics. For example, sperm counts have fallen by as much as 50 percent in the past 50 years, industrialised countries have seen a doubling in infertility since the 1960s, and there has been a dramatic increase in testicular cancer. Many more birth defects are being seen, most of them in baby boys. In fact, the ratio of male-female birth has changed, so much so, that the statistic must be seen as significant.

Strong Links Between Chemicals and Damage to Our Reproductive Health.

As a result of the study, Greenpeace has called upon manufacturers to stop using manmade chemicals wherever it is possible to substitute safer, more natural alternatives, since the results of the study suggest a strong link between the former and damage to our reproductive health. Most manmade chemicals have never been tested for safety and the chemicals used as examples in the Greenpeace report represent a small fraction of those in use. Some of the chemicals maligned by the report as dangerous to our health are artificial musks, bisphenol-A, organotin compounds, brominated flame retardants, phthalates, and alkylphenols. Many of these chemicals are in common use in products found on our supermarket shelves and in bathroom cabinets, yet have never been tested for their safety with regard to human health.

Most of the disorders being seen are thought to occur in response to exposure to chemicals in the developmental stages of pregnancy, just after birth, but sometimes even very early in pregnancy. Thanks in large measure to the work of Greenpeace, the EU passed REACH, (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation, and Restriction of Chemical substances) on June 1, 2007. REACH has put the responsibility of managing the risks from chemicals as well as providing data on the safety of such substances back into the hands of the manufacturers. Once the information is gathered it is to be submitted to a central database run by the ECHA (European Chemicals Agency) in Helsinki who will oversee the operation.

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