Are chemicals causing reproductive problems?

This week, the International Federation of Gynecology (FIGO) released a new report linking common chemicals to a host of reproductive health problems. But before we give expecting mothers yet another thing to worry about, let’s look at the report in-depth.

The FIGO report vastly overstates the evidence linking chemicals to reproductive and other health problems. The weight-of-the-evidence still shows many of the chemicals identified by FIGO pose no threat to human health.

For instance, the report cites negative health effects from both bisphenol A and phthalates. In the past year both the European Food Safety Authority and U.S. Food and Drug Administration reviewed and updated their assessments on BPA based on the many new studies of the chemical. Both concluded that the chemical poses no risk to human health. Similarly, the European Commission recently reviewed a host of new studies of two common phthalates, DINP and DIDP, and concluded they are safe in “all current consumer applications.”

We should do all that we can to reduce exposure to toxic chemicals and test the safety of chemicals before they’re brought to market. However, this new report from the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics lacks evidence supporting the ‘danger’ posed by many of the most commonly used chemicals. Simply offering the evidence that many environmental chemicals are found in the human body does not show these chemicals are a threat to human health.

The ubiquity of man-made chemicals, from pesticides to those used in food packaging and plastics has certainly increased with innovations that have vastly improved modern life. Consider that farmers around the globe can now grow more food per acre and are able to package that food in cans and plastic to keep it from spoiling. The FIGO report does not offer evidence that the weight of research shows chemicals commonly used in food packaging and plastics, such as BPA and phthalates, pose a risk to human health. Nor does it weigh the benefits of the use of these chemicals against the limited evidence of possible health risks.

FIGO calls for vague “broad-based policy changes in exposure to toxic environmental chemicals.” But any policy changes must be rooted in a firm, weight-of-the-evidence approach to evaluating the safety of common environmental chemicals.