The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Suzi Emmerling

Dangerous Chemicals Threaten America's Reproductive Health


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.