Employees with physical, chemical, or biological risks at work need to be aware of the impact of those exposures on both their own reproductive health and that of their children. Both male and female employees and students can take prudent precautions to reduce these risks.
Some chemicals can cause damage to the reproductive systems of men or women leading to infertility, impotence, menstrual irregularities, spontaneous abortion or damage to offspring. Chemicals include heavy metals, some aromatic solvents (benzene, toluene, xylenes, etc.), and some therapeutic drugs. In addition, biologic agents such as toxoplasmosis, LCMV and Q fever can cause damaging effects. Ionizing radiation is also well known for potential to cause birth defects.
Supervisors and employees alike should be familiar with relevant hazards and review and understand information about the reproductive effects of the exposures they may encounter. Because much of the organ development occurs in the first trimester of pregnancy, critical exposures may occur before a realization of the pregnancy. In addition, some agents can have reproductive impact on both male and female germ cells prior to conception. It is therefore import that these effects are clearly understood in the workplace.
Employees and students should be aware of non-occupational exposures that may affect reproductive health such as alcohol, smoking, medications, non-prescription drugs, and household chemicals.