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Reproductive Hazards

Exposure to reproductive hazards in the workplace is an increasing health concern. Reproductive hazards are substances or agents that may affect the reproductive health of women or men or the ability of couples to have healthy children. These hazards may cause problems such as infertility, miscarriage, and birth defects.

OSHA has standards specific to chemicals such as lead; 1, 2-Dibromo-3 Chloropropane; and ethylene oxide that are known to have an adverse effect on the reproductive system.

OSHA Standards

This section highlights OSHA standards, Federal Register notices and standard interpretations (official letters of interpretation of the standards) related to reproductive hazards.

Note: Twenty-five states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have OSHA-approved State Plans and have adopted their own standards and enforcement policies. For the most part, these States adopt standards that are identical to Federal OSHA. However, some States have adopted different standards applicable to this topic or may have different enforcement policies.

General Industry (29 CFR 1910)

  • 1910.97, Nonionizing radiation. Describes the kinds of non-ionizing radiation, warning symbols used and formula for calculating radiation levels which should not be exceeded.
  • 1910 Subpart Z, Toxic and hazardous substances [related topic page]
    • 1910.1000, Air contaminants. Identifies hazardous chemicals many of which are potential reproductive hazards.
    • 1910.1020, Access to employee exposure and medical records. OSHA requires the reporting of employee exposure to hazardous chemicals and allows access to these records by employees.
    • 1910.1025, Lead. Describes guidelines for hazard protection from lead exposure including reproductive hazards. [related topic page]
      • Appendix A, Substance data sheet for occupational exposure to lead
      • Appendix B, Employee standard summary
      • Appendix C, Medical surveillance guidelines
    • 1910.1030, Bloodborne pathogens. Describes requirements for protection from exposure to bloodborne pathogens. [related topic page]
    • 1910.1044, 1,2-dibromo-3-chloropropane. Describes exposure hazards to reproductive health and provides requirements for partial protection from these risks.
      • Appendix A, Substance safety data sheet for DBCP
      • Appendix B, Substance technical guidelines for DBCP
      • Appendix C, Medical surveillance guidelines for DBCP
    • 1910.1047, Ethylene oxide. Provides requirements for safe handling of ethylene oxide which includes hazard protection for reproductive health. [related topic page]
      • Appendix A, Substance safety data sheet for ethylene oxide (Non-mandatory)
      • Appendix B, Substance technical guidelines for ethylene oxide (Non-mandatory)
      • Appendix C, Medical surveillance guidelines for ethylene oxide (Non-mandatory)
    • 1910.1096, Ionizing radiation. Describes types of ionizing radiation, warning symbols used, radiation levels which should not be exceeded and personal monitoring.
    • 1910.1200, Hazard communication. In compliance with this standard, all personnel involved in any aspect of the handling of covered hazardous chemicals must receive information and training to appraise them of these hazards in the work area. [related topic page]

Federal Registers

Standard Interpretations

Hazard Recognition

From the Preamble to NIOSH's National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) Statement on Reproductive Hazards:

"While more than 1,000 workplace chemicals have shown reproductive effects in animals, most have not been studied in humans. In addition, most of the 4 million other chemical mixtures in commercial use remain untested. Physical and biological agents in the workplace that may affect fertility and pregnancy outcomes are practically unstudied. The inadequacy of current knowledge coupled with the ever-growing variety of workplace exposures pose a potentially serious public health problem.

General Information

The following references provide general information that addresses the following issues:

  • What are reproductive hazards?

    Reproductive hazards are substances or agents that may affect the reproductive health of women or men or the ability of couples to have healthy children. Hazards may be chemical, physical or biological. Examples of reproductive hazards are lead (chemical), radiation (physical) and certain viruses (biological).

  • What are the routes of exposure?

    Workers may be exposed to reproductive hazards by breathing them in (inhalation), by contact with skin (dermal) and by swallowing them (ingestion).

  • What are the potential health effects of exposure?

    Potential health effects include infertility, miscarriage, birth defects and developmental disorders in children.

  • Can a worker expose his/her family to these hazards?

    Yes, a worker can expose his/her family to these hazards by bringing them home from the workplace, for example, on his/her skin, hair, clothes, shoes, tools or car. It is important to prevent these exposures by the use of workplace engineering controls, proper work practices and good hygiene.

    • The Effects of Workplace Hazards on Female Reproductive Health. US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Publication No. 99-104, (1999, February). Addresses exposure, prevention, and reproductive hazards for female workers and their unborn babies.
    • The Effects of Workplace Hazards on Male Reproductive Health. US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Publication No. 96-132, (1996). Identifies steps to reduce or prevent workplace exposure to reproductive hazards.

Chemical Reproductive Hazards

Physical Reproductive Hazards

Biological Reproductive Hazards

Possible Solutions

Hierarchy of Controls

Workplace Hazards to Reproduction and Development: A Resource for Workers, Employers, Health Care Providers, and Health & Safety Personnel [210 KB PDF, 8 pages]. Washington State Department of Labor and Industries Technical Report No. 21-3-1999, (1999, August). In this 1999 publication, Washington State Department of Labor and Industries defines hierarchy of controls as "a ranking of methods that can be used in the workplace to prevent or minimize worker exposures - from the most effective to the least effective. Conceptually, a workplace exposure can be visualized as a source of potentially hazardous material, and a pathway along which the hazardous material travels to reach and affect the worker. The exposures can be controlled by eliminating the source (product substitution), capturing the contaminant along the pathway (engineering controls), and finally controlling exposures at the worker (personal protective equipment [PPE], administrative controls, and personal hygiene). This ranking of controls applies to practically all workplace exposures, and is readily applicable to reproductive and developmental hazards."

Resources

General Reproductive Hazards

Physical Reproductive Hazards

  • 10 CFR 20, Standards for Protection Against Radiation. US Department of Energy (DOE). The DOE-NRC requires licensees to maintain exposure to the fetus of an occupationally exposed individual to 500 mrem (5 mSv) or less during the gestation period.

  • Radiation Protection Policy. US Department of Energy (DOE). The Office of Health, Safety and Security develops and issues DOE's occupational radiation protection policy, requirements and guidance.

Chemical Reproductive Hazards

Biological Reproductive Hazards

  • Healthcare-associated Infections (HAIs). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Provides a list of primary, CDC published, guidelines and recommendations for the prevention of Healthcare-Associated Infections.

Additional Information

Related Safety and Health Topics Pages

Other Resources



This topics page is not a standard or regulation and it creates no new legal obligations. It contains recommendations as well as descriptions of mandatory safety and health standards. The recommendations are advisory in nature, informational in content and are intended to assist employers in providing a safe and healthful workplace. The Occupational Safety and Health Act requires employers to comply with safety and health standards and regulations promulgated by OSHA or by a state with an OSHA-approved state plan. In addition, the Acts General Duty Clause, Section 5(a)(1), requires employers to provide their employees with a workplace free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm.


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