Greenpeace International  [Printer-friendly version]
May 2, 2006


Greenpeace report reveals the impact of toxic chemicals on
reproductive health

[Rachel's introduction: A new report from the Science Unit of
Greenpeace International reveals a pattern of reproductive disorders
related to exposure to the toxic chemicals found in many consumer

Amsterdam -- Falling sperm counts, rising infertility and genital
abnormalities in babies could all result from exposure to hazardous
man-made chemicals used in perfumes, carpets, electronics, clothing
and a host of other consumer goods, a Greenpeace report released
today has revealed[1].

The report, 'Fragile: Our reproductive health and chemical exposure',
collates the findings of a number of peer-reviewed scientific studies
of recent years. Together, the studies show for the first time a
comprehensive picture of an increase in reproductive health disorders,
mirroring the rising presence in our lives of human-created synthetic

Sperm counts have fallen by 50% in 50 years, infertility among couples
has more than doubled in industrialised countries since the 1960s,
while testicular cancer has become increasingly common. The male-
female birth ratio has changed dramatically in some areas and birth
defects of the reproductive system are increasingly noted in baby

"The growing body of scientific evidence indicating links between
exposure to man- made chemicals and damage to our reproductive systems
is extremely disturbing. Greenpeace is calling for any chemical that
can potentially harm humans in this way to be removed from use
wherever a safer alternative is available," said Dr David Santillo of
Greenpeace International's Science Unit, one of the report's authors.

Many of the disorders which have been increasing in incidence are
thought to originate in the developing stages of the child's life in
the womb or shortly after birth. At the same time, tests have shown
that exposure to some commonly used chemicals which may affect
fertility takes effect almost from the moment a child is conceived.
Among the chemicals concerned are alkylphenols, phthalates, brominated
flame retardants, organotin compounds, bisphenol-A and artificial
musks. However, these chemicals, used as examples in this report,
represent only a fraction of the problem. Most chemicals on the market
have never been tested for their safety for human health or the
environment, yet many are routinely used in products found on
supermarket shelves and in our bathroom cabinets.

A law proposed by the European Union, known as REACH[2], currently
being discussed, is supposed to allow for much stricter checks and
controls on the manufacture and use of chemicals. But an aggressive
lobby from certain chemicals producers has been so successful in
undermining REACH that the law could ultimately allow substances
suspected of harming our hormone system and sexual organs to remain in

Greenpeace International Toxics Campaigner, Helen Perivier, said:
"Many individuals and couples see their lives and welfare affected by
reproductive disorders. The EU cannot close its eyes to this rising
problem by weakening the protection that REACH could provide against
chemical-induced health problems."

Greenpeace argues that there can be no justification for allowing the
continued use of hazardous chemicals that can be passed to developing
children and that may harm sexual development.

Governments and Members of the European Parliament will vote on the EU
chemicals regulation later this year.

Notes to the editor:

[1] The report Fragile is available at

[2] REACH: Regulation on the Registration, Evaluation and
Authorisation of Chemicals

[3] Fatal Flaws,