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Physicians Urge Action to Prevent Exposure to Toxic Chemicals

Reproductive-health physicians say increases in exposure to toxic chemicals over the last four decades are threatening human reproduction and health. Credit: Suriya Wattanalee/iStockphoto
Reproductive-health physicians say increases in exposure to toxic chemicals over the last four decades are threatening human reproduction and health. Credit: Suriya Wattanalee/iStockphoto
October 5, 2015

ALBQUERQUE, N.M. - Dramatic increases in exposure to toxic chemicals over the last four decades are threatening human reproduction and health.

That's according to a global federation of women's health physicians meeting in Vancouver this week.

Tracey Woodruff is professor and director of the University of California at San Francisco's program on reproductive health and the environment. She says doctors are calling on their peers to take action to protect public health.

"So they've reviewed the science, they say the science is strong and that we need to be concerned about how these chemicals can be affecting development and reproduction," says Woodruff. "So basically doctors are saying we need to do something about environmental chemical exposures because they're hurting our patients and the populations around the globe."

Woodruff says exposure to toxins disproportionately impacts poor people and people of color. She notes 7 million people die each year across the globe because of air pollution. She says in the U.S. alone, the cost of childhood diseases related to toxins in air, food, water and soil is more than $70 billion annually.

Woodruff says doctors used to see mostly normal patients with an occasional abnormality, but after years of increased exposure to chemicals, that scenario has reversed.

Woodruff points out that more than 30,000 pounds of chemicals per person are manufactured or imported in the U.S. each year, and many never have been tested for safety. She adds that since physicians began documenting toxins in pregnant women and umbilical cords, an increasing number of children are being born "pre-polluted."

"This is why people are saying, 'Wait a minute, there's something going on here and we need to address it,'" says Woodruff. "Particularly if chemicals are coming out into the stores, onto the marketplace and we don't even know if they're a problem or not."

The international group's prescription to reverse the impacts of toxic chemicals include making sure people have access to healthy food, making environmental health a regular part of health care, and enacting stricter policies requiring tests to prevent unsafe chemicals from ever reaching people in the first place.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - NM