Greenpeace International, 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 products.]

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 chemicals.

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 boys.

"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 use.[3]

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 ile

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

[3] Fatal Flaws,