Report highlights reproductive woes

A report published by Greenpeace this week pulls together the findings of several recent studies to paint a bleak picture of human reproductive health and links the problems to man-made chemicals in the environment.

The document, Fragile: Our reproductive health and chemical exposure points to a growing body of evidence which indicates a disturbing rise in the incidence of disorders of the human reproductive system and is being used as the latest weapon in the fiercely fought lobbying war surrounding the EU's REACH regulations.

Among the issues it hones in on are the dramatic decline in sperm counts in many parts of the world, a significant increase in testicular cancer and genetic abnormalities, the doubling of infertility rates in the industrialised world over the past 50 years and a widening gap between male and female birth rates.

The report points to evidence that part of the problem stems from the exposure to hazardous chemicals found in everything from perfumes and electronics to clothing and carpets.

"The growing body of scientific evidence indicating links between exposure to man-made chemicals and damage to our reproductive systems is extremely disturbing," said Dr David Santillo of Greenpeace International's Science Unit, one of the report's authors.

"Greenpeace is calling for any chemical that can potentially harm humans in this way to be removed from use wherever a safer alternative is available."

Among the chemicals fingered in the report are alkylphenols, phthalates, brominated flame retardants, organotin compounds, bisphenol-A and artificial musks.

But these are just the tip of the iceberg, claims Greenpeace, as most of the chemicals used in consumer products have never been tested for safety.

The pressure group is using the report to strengthen the case for legislators to make sure safety is the first concern when they vote on the controversial EU chemical regulations, REACH.

Greenpeace toxics campaigner, Helen Perivier, said: "Many individuals and couples see their lives and welfare affected by reproductive disorders.

"The EU cannot close its eyes to this rising problem by weakening the protection that REACH could provide against chemical-induced health problems."

Greenpeace argues that there can be no justification for allowing the continued use of hazardous chemicals that can be passed to developing children and that may harm sexual development.

Sam Bond



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