Reproductive Hazards

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 pidose 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. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Publication No. 99-104, (February 1999). Addresses exposure, prevention, and reproductive hazards for female workers and their unborn babies.
    • The Effects of Workplace Hazards on Male Reproductive Health. U.S. 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

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 Act’s 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.