Chlorine Chemicals Disrupt Reproduction

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The ability of humans to reproduce is threatened by a group of synthetic chemicals produced from chlorine, according to Greenpeace. Infertility, birth defects and altered levels of sex hormones are some of the cases cited in the report "Body Of Evidence - The Effects Of Chlorine On Human Health."

The report is the first assessment of all the current evidence on the effects of chlorinated compounds, commonly known as organochlorines, on human health.

Greenpeace is calling for immediate action to ban organochlorines worldwide. Several political conventions are moving toward phasing out these substances in the North Sea, the Mediterranean, the Great Lakes and within United Nations countries.

"Urgent international action is imperative to ban organochlorines. Not only are we threatening the environment but risking the very future of the human race. The choice between the future of our children's health and our ability to reproduce, or the right of companies to use our seas, land and air as their dumping ground is clear. We choose life," said Lisa Finaldi, of Greenpeace.

Organochlorines, which interfere with crucial hormone levels in the body, can now be measured in the blood, breast milk, muscle and body fat of people the world over.

Organochlorines are produced in large quantities by such multinationals as ICI, Dow, Occidental Petroleum, PPG Industries, Elf Atochem, Olin, Vulcan Material, Enichem, Bayer and Hoechst. They are used widely in PVC plastics, solvents and pulp and paper production. They are now found throughout the global environment, from the Arctic to the Antarctic.

In the last 50 years the incidence of human reproductive problems has risen dramatically. Evidence is overwhelming that organochlorines are a major factor.

The unborn fetus is most vulnerable to the effects of toxic chemicals. Exposure to organochlorines during pregnancy can cause reproductive effects, fetal death and spontaneous abortion, low birth weight, effects on intelligence and behavioral problems.

Sperm counts in men have fallen dramatically. Two recent European studies have shown a fall of two per cent a year over the past 20 years. The quality of sperm is also reduced, with sperm mobility declining and the abnormal sperm rising.

The incidence of testicular cancer has increased over the last 50 years on a worldwide scale. During the same period, the incidence of undescended testicles and urethral abnormalities has also been reported to have increased in some countries.

Women's reproductive problems have increased dramatically over the past 50 years in industrialized countries. Girls are reaching puberty earlier: cases of endometriosis, infertility, cancer of the breast and other reproductive cancers are rising.

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