Environmental Health and Reproductive Justice: Connecting the Dots

In our recent piece for the National Women’s Health Network (which I co-authored with Sarah Alcid of MomsRising), we summarized some of the connections between environmental health and reproductive justice efforts. In my work as a staff member at CEH and a Board Member of the Reproductive Health Technologies Project, I often see these connections at play in ways that can intimately affect all women.

From the air we breathe to the personal care products we use, our everyday environment can harm the health of women, families and communities. Too often we falsely assume that our air, water and products we use are safe. But increasing scientific evidence shows that our environment and many consumer products contain a stew of toxic chemicals that can wreak havoc with our health.

For example, chemicals that can alter or disrupt our bodies’ natural hormones are widespread in the environment and in many everyday products.  Because the endocrine system manages the body’s internal communication via hormones, these endocrine-disrupting chemicals are especially dangerous during critical windows of development: pregnancy, infancy, and puberty. Such chemicals have been found in pesticides, wood preservatives, paints, plastics and even many cosmetics and personal care products.

In addition to toxic exposures from the products we use, hydraulic fracking (or “fracking”) for oil and/or natural gas and coal mining also generate reproductive and environmental health concerns. More than a third of the chemicals known to be used in fracking are endocrine disruptors, and coal ash from coal mining contains some of the world’s deadliest toxic metals. The chemicals used in fracking and the waste product of burning coal cannot be properly disposed of in a way that they do not leach into the water and air, affecting the environmental and reproductive health of the communities that live near fracking and coal mining sites.

We need meaningful chemical policy reform focused on prioritizing public health, but unfortunately to date Congress has fallen far short in their proposals for new chemical policies. The two bills now before Congress–the Chemicals in Commerce Act (CICA) and the Chemical Safety Improvement Act(CSIA)–would protect the chemical industry’s profits while leaving American women, their families and communities at risk.

Read more about chemical reform and the protections women, children and families need – see CEH’s work on the CICA and CSIA.