UCSF launches resources on how to prevent toxic exposures in the environment

By Karin Rush-Monroe on January 13, 2010

UCSF has launched online and print resources designed to help consumers make smarter decisions about substances that can harm general and reproductive health.  A new brochure and web page include specific tips on reducing exposure to metals and synthetic chemicals in everyday life—at home, at work, and in the community—and provide links to other sources with more detailed information.

A brochure titled Toxic Matters, created by an alliance of partners led by the UCSF Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment (PRHE), offers practical recommendations for women, men and children that apply to everyone regardless of whether a person is pregnant or planning to have children in the future.  It also covers how to become a conscientious shopper when purchasing household products and how to support public policies to stop chemical pollution before it happens.

The brochure and links to further resources are available on the PRHE website: http://www.prhe.ucsf.edu/prhe/toxicmatters.html.  A downloadable pdf of the brochure also is available: http://www.prhe.ucsf.edu/prhe/pdfs/ToxicMatters.pdf.

The alliance, called FASTEP (for From Advancing Science to Ensuring Prevention), comprises academic, government and non-governmental partners in reproductive, environmental, occupational, pediatric health and toxicology.

“Our goal is to engage the clinical community and consumers through education and access to resources to protect this and the next generation from environmental exposures,” said Tracey Woodruff, PhD, MPH, director of PRHE, which is part of the UCSF National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health.

“We’ve identified key areas where exposures are constant and avoidable, and a means for individuals to contact government representatives to prevent impacts of environmental contaminants on future generations. Although certain groups are most vulnerable, toxic substances in the environment affect every person, every day and are the responsibility of all of us,” she said.

The brochure consists of five pages of straightforward information to help consumers and physicians:

• Prevent exposure at home
• Prevent exposure in the workplace
• Prevent exposure in the community
• Become a smart consumer
• Make the government work for you

“Reducing exposure to toxins is an important but complicated issue. We felt it was important to capture the expertise of multiple disciplines into one, easy-to-use format so that consumers and healthcare professionals can better understand the impact of toxic substances on reproductive health, and what can be done to prevent those exposures,” said Nancy Milliken, MD, vice dean, UCSF School of Medicine and director, UCSF National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health.

“Clinicians, patients and the public need to know that exposure to toxic substances in the womb or during infancy, childhood, puberty and adulthood can lead to disease early or later in life and across generations,” said Linda C. Giudice, MD, PhD, professor and chair of the UCSF Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences and founder of PRHE.

“They also need tools to help them take action in clinical and policy arenas to prevent hazardous environmental exposures,” she said.

A wide range of peer-reviewed research conducted by scientists at UCSF, nationally and internationally has increasingly documented that environmental exposures to toxic chemicals encountered in everyday places impact reproductive health in a number of ways and affect both women and men.  Studies have shown that developing fetuses and children are especially vulnerable to environmental contaminants.

“While many questions remain, the strength of the evidence is sufficiently strong that leading scientists and clinicians have urged timely action to prevent harm,” said Giudice.

The latest science on how exposure to chemicals may impair reproductive health is summarized in another publication, Shaping Our Legacy, which presents findings and recommendations from the UCSF Collaborative on Health and the Environment’s 2007 Summit on Environmental Challenges to Reproductive Health and Fertility.  The publication also outlines actions to create environments that are healthier for fertility and reproduction.

A pdf of the report can be downloaded from the PRHE website in English and Spanish: English version at http://www.prhe.ucsf.edu/prhe/pubs/shapingourlegacy.pdf and Spanish version at http://www.prhe.ucsf.edu/prhe/pubs/ForjandoNuestroLegado.pdf. 

UCSF is a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care and patient safety. For further information, visit www.ucsf.edu.

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