“Toxic chemicals in the environment harm our ability to reproduce, negatively affect pregnancies, and are associated with numerous other long-term health problems.” So says a statement released yesterday by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (the College) and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM). Noting that many chemicals can cross the placenta to the fetus leading to cognitive impairment and birth defects, the statement encourages ob-gyns to help patients identify and avoid exposures to toxic chemicals before and during pregnancy. It also encourages their 60,000+ members to advocate for policy changes to identify and reduce exposure to toxic environmental agents throughout society, concluding that engagement of medical professionals in the policy debate is critical to translating emerging scientific findings into prevention-oriented action on a large scale.
The College and ASRM notes that robust scientific evidence has emerged over the past 15 years, demonstrating that exposure to toxic environmental agents before and during pregnancy can have lasting effects on our ability to give birth to healthy children. They express particular concern about endocrine disrupting chemicals that affect hormones and interfere with the developmental process. This parallels concerns raised by the World Health Organization/United Nations Environment Programme, earlier this year about widespread exposure to endocrine disruptors among children at vulnerable times in their development.
The building industry can do much to support the efforts of the ob-gyns and WHO to reduce these exposures. As we have profiled in Pharos articles and product evaluations, endocrine disrupting chemicals are widely used in building products, Examples include bisphenol A, a key ingredient of polycarbonate plastics, UV-cured flooring finishes and other epoxies; phthalates that make vinyl flexible, triclosan, the antimicrobial agent; and D4, the cyclosiloxane in silicone adhesives. Smart selection by designers and builders and reformulation by manufacturers can get tons of these chemicals out of the materials we surround ourselves with in our buildings and help protect the health of our children.