Everything you didn't want to know about sex...

Greenpeace report reveals the impact of toxic chemicals on reproductive health

Press release - 2 May, 2006
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 studiesof recent years. Together, the studies show for the first time acomprehensive picture of an increase in reproductive health disorders,mirroring the rising presence in our lives of man-made chemicals.

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

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

Many of the disorders which have been increasing in incidence arethought to originate in the developing stages of the child's life inthe womb or shortly after birth. At the same time, tests have shownthat exposure to some commonly used chemicals which may affectfertility takes effect almost from the moment a child is conceived.Among the chemicals concerned are alkylphenols, phthalates, brominatedflame retardants, organotin compounds, bisphenol-A and artificialmusks. However, these chemicals, used as examples in this report,represent only a fraction of the problem. Most chemicals on the markethave never been tested for their safety for human health or theenvironment, yet many are routinely used in products found onsupermarket shelves and in our bathroom cabinets.

An EU law (REACH [2]) currently being discussed is supposed to allowfor much stricter checks and controls on the manufacture and use ofchemicals. But an aggressive lobby from certain chemicals producers hasbeen so successful in undermining REACH that the law could ultimatelyallow substances suspected of harming our hormone system and sexualorgans to remain in use. [3]

Greenpeace International Toxics Campaigner, Helen Perivier, said: "Manyindividuals and couples see their lives and welfare affected byreproductive disorders. The EU cannot close its eyes to this risingproblem by weakening the protection that REACH could provide againstchemical-induced health problems."

Greenpeace argues that there can be no justification for allowing thecontinued use of hazardous chemicals that can be passed to developingchildren and that may harm sexual development.

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

Other contacts: Helen Perivier, Greenpeace International Toxics Campaigner, tel +32 (0)496 127107 (EN, FR)Nadia Haiama, Greenpeace EU policy director on chemicals, tel +32 (0)476 961376 (PT, FR, EN, ES)Katharine Mill, Greenpeace International Communications, tel +32 (0)496 156229 (EN, FR)To arrange an interview with David Santillo, Greenpeace Science Unit, contact Katharine Mill

Notes: 1. The report Fragile is available at http://www.greenpeace.org/fragile2. REACH: Regulation on the Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals3. Fatal Flaws, http://www.greenpeace.org/fatalflawsbrief