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August 2014
Archived Webinar

The recently recorded webinar on the New Toolkit for Clinicians on Preconception and Interconception Health  can be accessed here, including the slide set. The  toolkit was designed to help primary care providers and their colleagues incorporate preconception and interconception health into the routine care of all women of childbearing age. 
 
Environmental Health Resources 

 

CDC's Division of Reproductive Health (DRH) has a history of preparing for and responding to the needs of women and infants before, during, and after disaster events. See their webpage on Emergency Preparedness and Response: Pregnant Women and Newborns for applicable resources. CDC developed a fact sheet to help pregnant women and women with infants or young children in planning for an emergency or disaster, and created a Web resource for non-obstetric health care providers in caring for pregnant women during disasters.   

 

Click here to access an informative infographic developed by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists on chemical exposure during pregnancy.    

  

 

The Association of Reproductive Health Professionals houses clinical, patient, and continuing education resources on reproductive health and the environment. This page is a collection of resources that helps answer questions about how pollutants in our air, water, homes, and general environment are affecting reproductive health.

 

 

The Collaborative on Health and the Environment held a Women's Reproductive Health and the Environment Workshop in 2008, and developed a report intended for a lay audience titled: Girl, Disrupted: Hormone Disruptors and Women's Reproductive Health. The report summaries key outcomes of the workshop.  

 

The  National Prevention Strategy, called for in the ACA, is a comprehensive plan to increase the number of Americans who are healthy at every stage of life.  The Strategy prioritizes prevention by integrating recommendations and actions across multiple settings to address, among other issues, environmental factors affecting health, including clean air and water; healthy, safe communities; sustainable food systems; and access to affordable and healthy foods and drinkable water to improve health and save lives.  

 

UCSF's Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment works at the intersection of science, medicine, policy and community. They conduct targeted research; and translate scientific findings in order to expand clinical practice;and to advance science-based policy solutions.  

 

Books: 

Emergency Preparedness for Health Professionals

 

A Community Guide to Environmental Health

 

Articles:

The articles highlighted here discuss the importance of environmental health as it relates to reproductive and prenatal health:  

Exposure to toxic environmental agents

 

Phthalates and risk of endometriosis 

 

Toxic environmental chemicals: the role of reproductive health professionals in preventing harmful exposures 

    Women's Environmental Health         
 
 

What is "the environment"?

The environment includes the places people live, work and play and is comprised of everything in their surrounding areas, both indoors and outside. The air people breathe, water they drink, the ground they walk on, and the food they consume are all part of the environment. 


What is the cause for concern?

Today more than 84,000 chemicals are in use in the United States, yet only about 200 of these chemicals have been tested for toxicity to human health and the environment. Of the chemicals that have been tested, most have only been evaluated for their acute impacts to adult males in industrial settings. Toxic chemicals that enter the environment through contaminated water, the food chain, air pollution, or household products pose health problems for women -- especially girls, women of color and women of reproductive age -- that are unique from those for men.


How can the environment affect women's health?

Research indicates that women's health problems are on the rise in the US. Many household cleaning products and pesticides contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals, the health effects of which have been attributed to a range of reproductive health problems. Since the 1970s, for example, breast cancer rates have risen from a lifetime risk of about 1 in 10 to 1 in 8. The onset of puberty is occurring at an earlier age among young girls, with the average start of menstruation occurring a few months earlier than it did 40 years ago and the development of breasts occurring up to one to two years earlier. Endometriosis, a leading cause of female infertility, is also far more common today than it was 50 years ago, with more than 5 million women of reproductive age in the US affected by the condition.

 
How can the environment affect pregnant women?

Women are the first environment for the next generation. Exposure to certain toxic substances -- including lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, pesticides, solvents, and household chemicals -- can increase the risk of miscarriage, preterm birth, and other pregnancy-related complications. Many of the chemicals a woman is exposed to are stored in her body fat and passed onto her child during pregnancy and later through breastfeeding. Synthetic chemicals are so prevalent in a woman's breast milk today that, if bottled for sale, most would not pass FDA regulations. While a number of studies document that breastfeeding remains the best option for building infant immunity, the quantity of chemicals to which children are exposed is of great concern. Women who are pregnant, nursing, or plan to become pregnant should take care to limit, as much as possible, exposure to chemicals and other environmental toxins.

 

Toxic environmental exposure on communities of color 
The EPA defines Environmental Justice as the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. However,
women of color and their families in the U.S., including African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, and American Indians, bear a greater burden of the chronic diseases associated with exposure to environmental toxins, including asthma, cancer, diabetes, lupus, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and Parkinson's disease. Also, because people of color now comprise a majority in neighborhoods with commercial hazardous waste facilities and factories that report toxic emissions, individuals in these areas suffer higher-than-average rates of lead poisoning and exposure to contaminated water, pesticides and mercury. These factors, when combined with workplace exposure, use of certain consumer products and diet, can have greater adverse effects on the health of women of color. Improving environmental conditions, identifying and mitigating structural inequalities, and finding solutions to empower traditionally marginalized people are the goals for environmental justice movements
Southeastern Women's Leadership
in Environmental Health
 
 
 Georgia Women's Action for New Directions (WAND) is an independent grassroots, woman-led organization that seeks to direct women's voices into a powerful movement for social change. Georgia WAND monitors activities and policy decisions that affect the Savannah River Site (SRS) and nuclear power plants. WAND translates technical information about nuclear weapons and waste, its effects on national security, and its environmental impacts into terms that are meaningful to the communities near nuclear facilities.  
 
Coastal Women for Change (CWC) is a community organization based on the premise that empowering its residents, providing them with reach, leverage and consistency, is the ultimate key to recovery after a disaster and viability in the face of future disasters.  CWC's work empowers women in Mississippi to be political voices in the reconstruction of their communities, especially concerning issues of lack of affordability to reconstruct their lives, emergency preparedness, and climate change.  
 

Penelope Jagessar Chaffer is the multi award-winning filmmaker of Toxic Baby. Curious about the effects of the chemicals she was exposed to while pregnant, she asked biologist Tyrone Hayes to brief her on one he studied closely -  atrazine, an herbicide used on corn. Onstage together at TEDWomen, Hayes and Chaffer tell their story:

Tyrone Hayes + Penelope Jagessar Chaffer: The toxic baby? 
Tyrone Hayes + Penelope Jagessar Chaffer: The toxic baby?
Read Our Blog! 
This month's newsletter was written by our graduate student  intern Amanda ZabalaClick here to read her blog about environmental exposures and their affect on women of color.  

Tell Us What YOU Think!  

What other ways are public health professionals and community organizations partnering to protect and support women's environmental health? We'd love to share any resources - books, websites, apps, etc - that you find useful!  

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Every Woman Southeast Coalition | http://www.everywomansoutheast.org 
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 
Chapel Hill, NC 27599

 


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