My Ob/Gyn has been a port in the storm of parenthood for me. Over the years, she has talked with me about Pap smears, IUD’s, epidurals, and mammograms. She’s helped me with lactation and nutrition, hormonal imbalances and marital relations. She’s been utterly unflappable. That’s why I was a bit surprised to note that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) appeared, in a new statement on the health effects of toxic chemicals released this week, to be slightly, well, flapped. In other words, the Ob/Gyns of the world are worried. The powerful new statement affirms that toxic chemicals in the environment are harming our reproductive health. They are harming our fetuses and babies, and they are harming our health as women, men, mothers, and fathers. These prestigious organizations write:
“Reducing exposure to toxic environmental agents is a critical area of intervention for obstetricians, gynecologists, and other reproductive health care professionals.”
Not just concern: intervention. They should roll up their sleeves and do all they can to reduce harmful exposures.
“Patient exposure to toxic environmental chemicals and other stressors is ubiquitous, and preconception and prenatal exposure to toxic environmental agents can have a profound and lasting effect on reproductive health across the life course.”
Profound and lasting. They are not talking about a slight pain in the, um, posterior. And, by the way, moms and dads concerned with these issues are not, for sure, hysterical “chemophobes” with unreasonable, sky-is-falling concerns about industrial chemicals. And if we are, we in the company of the 64,000 medical and nursing professionals represented by ACOG and ASRM.
“Prenatal exposure to certain chemicals has been documented to increase the risk of cancer in childhood; adult male exposure to pesticides is linked to altered semen quality, sterility, and prostate cancer; and postnatal exposure to some pesticides can interfere with all developmental stages of reproductive function in adult females, including puberty, menstruation and ovulation, fertility and fecundity, and menopause.”
Here we learn the specific, documented health effects of our under-regulated chemical industry on:
- cancer in children and adults
- disturbance of reproductive function at all life stages
No one of any age is spared the health effects of these exposures, and because they alter our reproductive health, they threaten our children. The scientific evidence is “robust”; the exposure to these chemicals is “ubiquitous;” and “preventing harmful environmental exposure must involve policy change.” This means that while there are some things that individuals can do to reduce harmful exposures before and during pregnancy – according to ACOG, these include avoiding fish with high mercury levels and using BPA-free products – individual action can take us only so far in a world where chemicals land on store shelves virtually untested for reproductive health and safety. I think I’ll bring a superhero cape to my next Ob/Gyn visit. It will look very nice over her white lab coat.