Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Medical Groups Urge Action To Reduce Toxic Exposure

Sep 23: The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (The College) and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) issued a joint Committee Opinion indicating that "toxic chemicals in the environment harm our ability to reproduce, negatively affect pregnancies, and are associated with numerous other long-term health problems." The College and ASRM urge ob-gyns to advocate for government policy changes to identify and reduce exposure to toxic environmental agents. 

    Jeanne Conry, MD, PhD, president of The College said, "Lawmakers should require the US Environmental Protection Agency and industry to define and estimate the dangers that aggregate exposure to harmful chemicals pose to pregnant women, infants, and children and act to protect these vulnerable populations. Every pregnant woman in America is exposed to many different chemicals in the environment. Prenatal exposure to certain chemicals is linked to miscarriages, stillbirths, and birth defects." According to a release, many chemicals that pregnant women absorb or ingest from the environment can cross the placenta to the fetus. Exposure to mercury during pregnancy, for instance, is known to harm cognitive development in children.

    The scientific evidence over the last 15 years shows that exposure to toxic environmental agents before conception and during pregnancy can have significant and long-lasting effects on reproductive health. Linda Giudice, MD, PhD, president of ASRM said, "For example, pesticide exposure in men is associated with poor semen quality, sterility, and prostate cancer. We also know that exposure to pesticides may interfere with puberty, menstruation and ovulation, fertility, and menopause in women."

    The groups indicated that, other reproductive and health problems associated with exposure to toxic environmental agents include: Miscarriage and stillbirth; Impaired fetal growth and low birth weight; Preterm birth; Childhood cancers; Birth defects; Cognitive/intellectual impairment; and Thyroid problems. Approximately 700 new chemicals are introduced into the U.S. market each year, and more than 84,000 chemical substances are being used in manufacturing and processing or are being imported. Dr. Conry said, "The scary fact is that we don't have safety data on most of these chemicals even though they are everywhere -- in the air, water, soil, our food supply, and everyday products. Bisphenol A (BPA), a hormone disruptor, is a common toxic chemical contained in our food, packaging, and many consumer products. To successfully study the impact of these chemical exposures, we must shift the burden of proof from the individual health care provider and the consumer to the manufacturers before any chemicals are even released into the environment."
    The groups said certain groups of people and communities have higher exposures to harmful environmental chemicals than others. Dr. Conry said, "For example, women exposed to toxic chemicals at work are at higher risk of reproductive health problems than other women. Low-wage immigrants who work on farms have higher exposures to chemicals used on the crops that they harvest." Dr. Giudice said, "As reproductive health care physicians, we are in a unique position to help prevent prenatal exposure to toxic environmental agents by educating our patients about how to avoid them at home, in their community, and at work."
The American Chemistry Council (ACC) commented on the medical group concerns saying, "We support efforts to promote the health and well-being of pregnant women, infants and young children. We agree with the underlying premise of the Opinion that pregnant women and women who are trying to conceive should eat a healthy diet and be sensitive about the kinds of things they ingest or are exposed to. "However, we have serious concerns with the Opinion: "We are disappointed that the Opinion takes scientific consensus about highly-regulated substances like mercury or lead, and applies the conclusions about safety to other substances that both science and federal regulators tell us are used safely in consumer products.

    "We are concerned that the Opinion inappropriately draws conclusions based on biomonitoring data that ignores the fact that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stated that just because a chemical is present in the body, doesn't mean that it will cause effects or disease. And, we are concerned that the Opinion includes references to specific chemicals, which are based on a limited number of flawed studies, and ignores thorough scientific assessments that demonstrate safe use of these substances. For example, bisphenol A (BPA) is one of the most tested substances in use today and regulatory agencies around the world have repeatedly found that the evidence does not show a connection between typical exposure levels and health effects or disease. BPA is used to make the linings in food cans—food that's an important source of nutrition for millions of Americans -- to prevent contamination and food-borne illnesses. The FDA has examined this use and scientists at FDA tell us that the trace amounts we are exposed to from materials that keep our food safe, are safe for us.

    "Women rely on their physicians for sound medical advice and access to reliable information. Creating confusion and alarm among expectant mothers will distract from the well-established steps doctors recommend to support a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. Chemicals are regulated by nearly a dozen federal laws today, and any new chemical must be reviewed and approved by the Environmental Protection Agency prior to manufacture. We share the group's interest in achieving policy reforms that will modernize and enhance federal chemical regulation. We are actively working with bipartisan leaders in Congress to achieve the first chemical regulatory reforms in decades, even as ACC member companies continuously improve industry product stewardship and safety programs."
    Access a joint release from the groups with further details and multiple links to related information (click here). Access the complete statement from ACC and a video (click here). [#Toxics]