Reproductive Hazard: any occupational stressor (biological, chemical, or physical) that has the potential to adversely affect the human reproductive process. It is important to realize that many reproductive hazards also cause other adverse health effects. For example, ethylene oxide is also known to be a carcinogen.
Mutagen: Any stressor, usually chemical, that causes damage to eggs and sperm, resulting in sterility or birth defects.
Teratogen: An agent that causes growth abnormalities in embryos, genetic modifications in cells, etc.; ionizing radiation can have this effect.
In 1991, the US Supreme Court ruled that women of childbearing age could not be excluded from employment as a precautionary measure to protect a fetus (existing or future) from exposure to a reproductive hazard and that such an exclusionary policy is in violation of existing EEO legislation. Navy policy is to provide safe and healthful working conditions for all employees which will not damage or affect their fertility or offspring. There are major data gaps in reproductive toxicology research and safe exposure levels have yet to be established for many substances. Therefore the goal is to keep exposures to all reproductive chemical stressors as low as reasonably achievable.
- It is the responsibility of the employee to inform their Supervisor as soon as possible that they are pregnant. The Supervisor and employee shall then complete a copy of the Reproductive Hazards Questionnaire and provide a copy to the local Occupational Health Department.
- Reproductive hazards training is required for employees and Supervisors of employees who work with reproductive hazards.
- Reproductive hazard assessments, including negative exposure assessments, are required to be conducted of all reproductive hazards and compared to existing exposure standards.
- To keep exposures as low as reasonably achievable, the following hazard abatement methods shall be employed whenever possible.< >elimination of substitution with less hazardous materialsengineering controls (ventilation)administrative controls (job rotation, work time limits)personal protective equipment
The following is a reprint of an article appearing in the NPS Campus News on 09 Apr 98.
Each year some 14 million workers are exposed to chemicals that may impair their reproductive systems or unborn children. In the general population, approximately four percent of all babies are born with birth defects, 15 percent of all couples are infertile, and 15 - 20 percent of all pregnancies end in miscarriage.