What Are Some Reproductive Health Hazards in the Workplace?

A report from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) published in February 1999 indicates the different possible workplace reproductive health hazards facing females. The document lists various potential hazards and indicates which workers may be exposed to and affected by the hazards. Infertility may be a troubling condition for many individuals and couples, so understanding potential risks and hazards in one’s everyday life is important in reducing one’s risk of the condition.

The NIOSH report makes sure to mention that the lists contained in the report are not complete and just because a chemical or agent is not listed on the list, it doesn’t mean that it is necessarily safe. Healthcare workers and pharmacists who are exposed to cancer treatment drugs may be at risk of infertility, miscarriage, birth defects and low birth weight. The report also mentions those exposed to lead, such as battery makers, solderers, welders, painters of bridges and home remodelers, may be at risk of infertility, miscarriage, low birth weight and developmental disorders. Healthcare workers, dental professionals and atomic workers may be exposed to ionizing radiation, which may be associated with infertility, miscarriage, birth defects, low birthweight, childhood cancers and developmental disorders.

What’s more, women exposed to strenuous physical labor such as prolonged standing and heavy lifting may be at risk of miscarriage late in pregnancy or premature delivery. There are several other agents that be considered reproductive health hazards. Healthcare workers who are exposed to various viruses such as hepatitis B, HIV, cytomegalovirus (CMV), rubella, human parvovirus B19 and many others may be at risk of various adverse effects as well. Vaccinations exist for hepatitis B, while good hygiene such as washing one’s hands may help to prevent CMV and human parvovirus B19. Safety precautions should be followed to avoid exposure to HIV.

Women should speak with their supervisors or managers if they believe they are unnecessarily exposed to agents or chemicals that may harm their reproductive health. Resources for information regarding this topic include NIOSH, the Center for Disease Control and other workers’ rights organizations. Be sure to stay aware of conditions that may lead to adverse health effects to help avoid these risks as much as possible. Take precautionary measures such as practicing good hygiene and taking breaks from sitting or standing if your job demands prolonged periods of either activity. Infertility and miscarriage may be harrowing experiences, thus ensuring one’s reproductive health is important.

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