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Effects of the workplace on fertility and related reproductive outcomes.

Environmental Health Perspectives
Environmental Health Perspectives
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  • Research Article
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This report reviews the recent literature on the adverse effects of occupational factors on fertility and related reproductive outcomes. Few studies fulfill the criteria of good study design because of small sample size, insensitive measures of effect, selection, recall, and observation bias, weak if any control of confounding factors, bad definition of exposure, inability to analyze a dose-response relationship, and inadequate statistical analysis. The high prevalence of unsuccessful reproductive outcomes in the general population makes the design of human fertility studies difficult. Although a number of publications indicate that certain occupational factors and settings adversely affect both male and female fertility, it is virtually impossible to estimate the proportion of infertility due to occupational factors in the general population. The collected data suggest that the exposure to the following substances or occupational settings may affect a function of male genital system, leading to sperm abnormalities, hyperestrogenism, impotence, infertility, and/or increased spontaneous abortion rate in wives of exposed workers: alkylmercury, antimonide, anesthetic gases, boron, carbon disulfide, chlorodecone, chloroprene, some carbamates (carbaryl), diaminostilbene, 1,2-dibromo-3-chloropropane, ethylene glycol ethers, ethylene dibromide, inorganic lead, manganese, methyl chloride, organic solvents, synthetic estrogens and progestins, tetraethyllead, combined exposure to styrene and acetone, welding operations, and heat. The majority of reviewed papers on female fertility concerns the alterations of menstrual cycle and pregnancy complications rather than occupational exposure-induced female infertility. The literature supports the hypothesis that, in general, working women have a tendency of higher risk of unsuccessful reproductive outcomes, although the existing data are not sufficient.

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