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Canadian Journal of Public Health

, Volume 99, Issue 6, pp 472–474 | Cite as

Workplace Standards for Exposure to Toxicants During Pregnancy

  • Christine Till
  • Gideon Koren
  • Joanne F. Rovet
Commentary

Abstract

Many women of childbearing age are exposed to reproductive toxicants in the workplace. This article highlights the need for an evaluation of current occupational exposure guidelines for pregnant women working with hazardous agents that have the potential of being reproductive toxins. Limited information regarding reproductive risks associated with many chemicals in the workplace presents challenges in the establishment of standards that are ‘safe’ for vulnerable populations, such as the fetus. The management of these risks must take into consideration the limitations of available knowledge as well as individual risk factors that may amplify the likelihood of adverse outcomes. In 1981, Quebec adopted a policy that provides “precautionary leave” or reassignment of pregnant workers to other jobs if they are exposed to a factor suspected to compromise their health or that of their fetus during pregnancy. The advantages and disadvantages of this approach to managing reproductive hazards are discussed. The existence of a regulatory safety net at the level of the workplace for minimizing the impact of toxicant exposure on reproductive health outcomes is stressed. Management options that can be implemented early to provide added protection when a hazard cannot be reduced or eliminated are recommended.

Keywords

Occupational exposure standards pregnancy maternal exposure 

Résumé

De nombreuses femmes en âge de procréer sont exposées, en milieu de travail, à des substances toxiques pour la reproduction. Dans cet article, nous soulignons le besoin d’évaluer les lignes directrices courantes sur l’exposition professionnelle des femmes enceintes qui travaillent avec des agents dangereux potentiellement toxiques pour la reproduction. Le manque d’information sur les risques génésiques associés à de nombreux produits chimiques en milieu de travail complique l’établissement de normes sur les seuils «sécuritaires» pour les populations vulnérables, comme les fœtus. La gestion de ces risques doit tenir compte des lacunes dans les connaissances actuelles et des facteurs de risque individuels susceptibles d’amplifier la probabilité de résultats défavorables. Depuis 1981, le Québec dispose d’une politique de «retrait préventif» des employées enceintes (ou de réaffectation de ces employées à des tâches plus sécuritaires) si elles sont exposées à un danger potentiel pour leur santé ou celle du fœtus pendant la grossesse. Nous analysons les avantages et les inconvénients de cette approche de gestion des risques génésiques, en insistant sur le fait que l’existence d’un «filet de sécurité» réglementaire en milieu de travail peut réduire les conséquences de l’exposition à des substances toxiques sur les résultats de santé génésique. Nous recommandons aussi des mesures de gestion à mettre en œuvre au début de la grossesse pour offrir une protection accrue lorsqu’il est impossible de réduire ou d’éliminer un danger.

Mots clés

exposition professionnelle normes grossesse exposition maternelle 

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Copyright information

© The Canadian Public Health Association 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christine Till
    • 1
    • 2
  • Gideon Koren
    • 3
    • 4
  • Joanne F. Rovet
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyYork UniversityTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Neurosciences and Mental HealthThe Hospital for Sick ChildrenTorontoCanada
  3. 3.PediatricsUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  4. 4.Clinical and Evaluative Studies ProgramThe Hospital for Sick ChildrenCanada

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