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July 21, 2009
2:02 PM

CONTACT: Center for American Progress

Suzi Emmerling
Phone: 202-481-8224

Dangerous Chemicals Threaten America’s Reproductive Health

WASHINGTON - July 21 - New report from the Center for American Progress provides data detailing the decline of reproductive health and Americans' rising exposure to dangerous chemicals.

Click here to read the full report: Reproductive Roulette: Declining Reproductive Heath, Dangerous Chemicals, and a New Way Forward (pdf)

Reproductive health in the United States is declining as human exposure to dangerous chemicals is rising, according to a data-rich slide show released by the Center for American Progress titled, "Reproductive Roulette: Declining Reproductive Heath, Dangerous Chemicals, and a New Way Forward."

Fertility problems, miscarriages, preterm births, and birth defects are all up. Meanwhile, the number of chemicals registered for commercial use now stands at 80,000-a 30-percent increase since 1979.

These trends in reproductive health are not simply the result of women postponing motherhood. In fact, women under 25 and women between 25 and 34 report an increasing number of fertility problems. Men and boys are also experiencing problems. Average sperm count appears to be steadily declining, and there are rising rates of male genital birth defects such as hypospadias, a condition in which the urethra does not develop properly.

"Something is not right," said Reece Rushing, Director of Regulatory and Information Policy at the Center for American Progress and author of the report. "Americans are regularly exposed to dangerous chemicals that we know can harm reproductive health. These exposures appear to be taking a disturbing toll."

Chemical exposures occur in a variety of ways, including through industrial releases, contaminated food, household products and cosmetics, and workplaces where chemicals are used. Tests of blood and urine confirm rising and widespread exposure to a chemical soup of metals, pesticides, plasticizers, and other substances, many of which are dangerous to reproductive health. Young children are often exposed to significantly higher levels of these chemicals than adults. Racial and ethnic minorities are also exposed at higher levels.

The slide show provides an overview of this problem and spotlights three chemical groups-phthalates, Bisphenol A, and polybrominated diphenyl ethers-that are linked to reproductive health consequences. Phthalates and BPA are found in toys, food containers, cosmetics, and many other consumer products. PBDEs are used as flame retardants in household furniture and electronics.

U.S. chemical safety laws do not provide adequate protection from these chemical groups and other dangerous substances. Indeed, the Government Accountability Office recently added chemical safety to its "high-risk list" of areas that should be addressed immediately.

"Regulatory agencies lack the authority and capacity to adequately evaluate safety and set strong standards against dangerous chemicals," Rushing explained. "And chemical manufacturers are not required to conduct premarket safety testing of their products. Instead, human beings in the real world end up as the guinea pigs."

Congress is beginning to pay attention. Lead and phthalates were banned from children's products last year following the discovery of contaminated Chinese-made toys. Legislation has also been introduced to ban BPA in all food and beverage containers. And the Kids Safe Chemical Act is expected to be introduced later this summer to reform the ineffectual Toxic Substances Control Act.

"Congress should act now," Rushing said. "America's reproductive health is on the line."

Click here to read the full report: Reproductive Roulette: Declining Reproductive Heath, Dangerous Chemicals, and a New Way Forward (pdf)

The Center for American Progress is a think tank dedicated to improving the lives of Americans through ideas and action. We combine bold policy ideas with a modern communications platform to help shape the national debate, expose the hollowness of conservative governing philosophy, and challenge the media to cover the issues that truly matter.


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