The International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) has said that increased exposure to toxic chemicals during the last forty years is posing threats to human reproduction and health.

In a report published on Thursday, Oct. 2, the group representing obstetrical and gynecological associations in over 100 countries worldwide said that among the poor health effects associated with exposure to plastics, pesticides, solvents and other chemicals include congenital malformation, miscarriage and still birth, impaired fetal growth, increased incidence of cancer, attention problems, hyperactivity, ADHD behaviors and impaired or reduced neurodevelopment.

The group said that exposure to these toxic chemicals harms capacity for healthy human reproduction and that reproductive health professionals everywhere should take part in preventing exposure to these substances.

"Documented links between prenatal exposure to environmental chemicals and adverse health outcomes span the life course and include impacts on fertility and pregnancy, neurodevelopment, and cancer," the group reported in the International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics.

"FIGO recommends that reproductive and other health professionals advocate for policies to prevent exposure to toxic environmental chemicals, work to ensure a healthy food system for all, make environmental health part of health care, and champion environmental justice."

FIGO said that chemical manufacturing is likely to grow fastest in developing countries over the next five years. In the U.S., over 30,000 pounds of chemicals per person are either produced or imported and most of these have not been tested.

"We are drowning our world in untested and unsafe chemicals and the price we are paying in terms of our reproductive health is of serious concern," said Gian Carlo Di Renzo, a physician and one of the authors of the FIGO opinion.

Chemical manufacturing causes 7 million deaths and costs billions in health care and the group says these numbers are likely underestimate.

The problem is also worse in poor communities where people tend to have higher levels of exposure to toxic chemicals. Those who live in developing countries likewise carry the unwanted implications of industrial emissions.

Individuals can adopt practices to reduce exposure to harmful chemicals such as eating pesticide-free food, opting for fresh produce over canned foods and other packaged food products, avoiding the use of plastic known to leech harmful chemicals, and making one's own cleaning products.

Tracey Woodruff, from the University of California-San Francisco, however, said that while there are ways for people to limit exposure, more is needed to protect everyone.

Photo: CGP Grey | Flickr 

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