The Reproductive Hazards of Industrial Chemicals
The Politics of Protection

by Sarah Sexton

first published 2 November 1993


Corporate and legislative responses to reproductive hazards in the workplace depend only partly on “scientific” assessment. They are also based on ideological assumptions about human reproduction and working women. The controversy surrounding US employers’ recent practices of excluding women from work where they might come into contact with known or suspected reproductive hazards has made these misconceptions explicit. It has also clarified the direction of more constructive action.



Corporate and legislative responses to reproductive hazards in the workplace depend only partly on "scientific" assessment. They are also based on ideological assumptions about human reproduction and working women. The controversy surrounding US employers' recent practices of excluding women from work where they might come into contact with known or suspected reproductive hazards has made these misconceptions explicit. It has also clarified the direction of more constructive action.

Human exposure to industrial chemicals is now almost universal. Of the nearly 3.5 million known chemicals, 65,000 are in commercial use and over 5,000 new ones introduced each year. The plastics industry alone uses nearly 2,500 chemicals or mixtures.1

The effects of most of these chemicals on human health, as well as on plant and animal life, are unknown. No information is available on the toxicity of approximately 80 per cent of chemicals in commercial use in the United States, while the effects on human reproduction, based on animal or human data, have so far been estimated for just one per cent of chemicals.2

Although it is difficult to establish absolute "scientific" proof that a substance is a reproductive hazard, the list of suspected toxic substances is long and rapidly increasing. Sheila McKechnie, a British trade unionist concerned with reproductive health issues, has stated:

"it would be nonsense to attempt to quantify the effect of occupation on reproductive health ... This is difficult enough in respect of cancer, where there is only one end-point to look for -- that is, the existence of the disease. It is much more difficult where the effects range through infertility, spontaneous abortion, stillbirths, birth abnormalities and deformities. Many factors other than occupation may be involved, and our difficulties are compounded by the lack of background rates for reproductive problems."3

Despite these difficulties, large differences in rates of stillbirths, miscarriage and birth defects among social classes, races, countries and occupational groups suggest that environmental factors play an important part in their causation.4 The most common route of chemical intake is inhalation, but absorption through the skin is significant for organic solvents and pesticides; people can also be affected through their eyes. Ingestion through smoking and eating with contaminated hands is also a factor.

Depending on the timing of exposure, industrial chemicals can damage egg and sperm cells;5 reproductive and sexual organs; the embryo (0-8 weeks) and the fetus (9-40 weeks); and the young child.

Table 1

Major Known and Highly Suspected Occupational Chemical Hazards to Reproduction18
Lead Menstrual disorders, miscarriage, birth defects Metal industry
Mercur (same as above) Metal industry, hospital workers
Anaesthetic Miscarriage, stillbirth, low birth weight, birth defects Hospital workers
Carbon monoxide (same as above) Metal industry, highway operators
Vinyl chloride (PVC) Miscarriage, stillbirth, birth defects Plastic industry, meat wrappers
Organic solvents
Benzene, xylene, toluene, trichloroethylene. Menstrual disorders, miscarriage, stillbirth Laboratory workers, textile & petrochemical industries, laundry workers, printers
Chlorinated hydrocarbons Stillbirth, birth defects
DBCP; TOK; 2,4-D; 2,4,5-T Miscarriage, stillbirth, birth defects Chemical mf'g, agricultural workers

Gendered Visions

In response to a suspected reproductive hazard in the workplace, employers have three options: do nothing; restrict the worker from being exposed to the substance; or reduce or substitute the hazard. In general, they have taken one or the other of the first two options. Their justifications for doing so have depended less on the hazard than on misconceptions about human reproduction and working women. As reproduction is perceived as the domain of women and women alone, the effects of substances have usually been assessed by considering whether exposure of the mother during pregnancy increases the risk of birth defects in the child. The route of effect is taken to be through the woman alone; the critical time is taken to be the period of pregnancy alone, and birth defects are assumed to be the only relevant adverse effect to be looked for.6

By not regarding human reproduction as a wider continuum in which men as well as women play a part, the hazards substances pose to the reproductive health of men and to the fetus through men have been consistently overlooked.7

The Invisible Man

The paucity of research on paternal exposure and the absence of regulation protecting men's health does not mean that men are invulnerable to reproductive hazards.

For instance, in 1977, male workers at an Occidental Chemical pesticide factory in California manufacturing dibromo--chloropropane (DBCP), which was used to kill roundworm and mites, noticed that none of their wives had had any children since the men had started working with the chemical. Sperm tests revealed that the majority of the men at the plant had zero or severely reduced sperm counts, but no other noticeable health effects. Production of DBCP was banned shortly afterwards, but a seven year follow-up study revealed little sperm recovery among the men with zero sperm counts while children of others have had high rates of birth defects.8

Since the DBCP finding, over 85 chemicals have been evaluated for spermatotoxic effects (see Table). But what little research there is on paternal exposure to hazardous substances has tended to focus on effects prior to conception. Even less attention has been paid to paternal exposure, which can affect the fetus after conception through substances brought home on skin, hair and clothes, for example, lead and asbestos, or in seminal fluid.9

The Excluded Woman

Most chemicals that affect the reproductive system of one sex also affect that of the other. As Michael Silverstein, a doctor working at the Detroit headquarters of the United Auto Workers, has stated:

"If scientific research reveals that a woman's reproductive health is at risk through occupational exposure to a particular substance, there is no scientific justification for concluding that a male co-worker is not similarly at risk, unless and until hard data proves otherwise."10

In fact, occupational hazards that affect fetuses through maternal exposure alone are rare. In addition, a substance posing a reproductive health risk usually carries other health risks as well. Chronic exposure to lead, for example, may damage blood-forming, nervous and urinary systems, possibly causing fatal kidney disease, as well as resulting in miscarriage and birth defects from male or female exposure; cadmium and vinyl chloride are carcinogens for which there is no known safe level of occupational exposure, as well as causing reproductive damage.11

All these hazards would suggest that any chemical suspected of causing reproductive hazards in either sex should be banned or severely controlled. Yet companies have resolutely resisted cleaning up, insisting instead either that there is no proof of the hazard or that the problem can be resolved by excluding women only from the workplace -- leaving men's health at risk and severely infringing women's right to work in a clean environment.

A study of 198 large chemical and electronic companies in Massachusetts found that 54 of them used glycol ethers, which even at very low doses produce toxic effects on sperm. None of these companies excluded men from exposure, but 37 of them restricted the work options of women on the basis of potential reproductive risk.12 DuPont barred only fertile women from exposure to hexa--fluoroacetone, a substance which according to its own studies damages sperm.13

At least 100,000 jobs have been closed to women because of such exclusionary policies largely in the auto, chemical, steel, oil, rubber and pharmaceutical industries, and predominantly in large corporations. These include General Motors, B. F. Goodrich, St Joe's Minerals, Allied-Signal, Olin, Gulf Oil, Exxon, Firestone, Dow Chemical, Sun Oil, Goodyear, BASF, Eastman Kodak, Union Carbide and Monsanto.

Rather than cleaning up the workplace, these corporations have prevented women from working with at least 12 hazardous substances including lead, vinyl chloride, benzene, carbon tetrachloride, cadmium, coal tar, acrylamide, toluene, carbon disulfide and carbon monoxide because of their adverse effects on the fetus. When the substance permeates the entire factory, for example, lead in the General Motors battery plants, the policy prohibits employment of women altogether, unless they can prove they cannot have children.14

Womb Control

Although employment policies and legislation aimed at "protecting" women's health have a 150-year history,15 the employment policies introduced over the past two decades in the United States which are directed at pregnant women or "women of reproductive capacity" have focused on protecting the fetus rather than the woman. A DuPont medical director, for example, is explicit: "When we remove a woman, it's to protect her fetus".17 The conceptual separation of a woman from the fetus has been pivotal in enabling companies to discriminate against women, regarding them as "mere vessels" rather than cleaning up the workplace.18

"Fetal protection policies" excluding all women assume that all women capable of having children will get pregnant and that once pregnant will carry the fetus to term. Not only do they reduce all women to their wombs; they also ignore other aspects affecting women's fertility, many of them controlled by women, for example, their contraceptive practices, sexual activity, sexual preference, marital status, the fertility of a woman's sexual partner, the number of children she ready has and her wish for children. Corporations implementing these policies effectively appoint themselves as guardians of the fetus, removing control and decision-making over fertility from women workers.

An infamous example of the consequences of a "fetal protection policy" occurred in 1978 when an American Cyanamid factory in West Virginia informed women working with lead-based pigments that they could continue to work only if they could prove that they were unable to bear children. Company officials claimed they were protecting "the most helpless member of society".19 Five women were sterilized while two who refused the "band-aid operation" were demoted to lower-paying caretaking jobs. Several months later, the restricted departments were closed anyway.

At another American Cyanamid plant, a management memo to workers announcing the exclusion of women of "child-bearing potential" concluded:

"The company realizes that it is a very personal and private matter whether or not a woman cannot become pregnant because of surgical procedures. It must be pointed out, however, that this very personal matter will no longer be private if you are permitted, and choose, to remain in one of the [restricted] departments listed ... above".20

After months of lobbying by the United Steelworkers of America union, the company abandoned the policy, announcing that none of the suspected toxic chemicals were actually used at the plant.

The Unprotected Fetus

In fact, "fetal protection policies" cannot protect the fetus because they do not protect the father. What such policies do is:

"contribute to a false belief that men are capable of withstanding toxic chemical exposures normally and safely, and are, therefore, the biologically appropriate work force for the higher paying jobs that entail such exposure."21

Moreover, policies which exclude pregnant women only -- rather than all women -- ignore the effects of toxic exposure before a woman conceives and the effects before she knows she is pregnant. For instance, teratogenic effects are most severe (depending on the chemical) during the first eight weeks after conception, the time when most of the human organs develop.22

Other inconsistencies in the corporate and state approach to human reproduction belie industry's concern for the fetus. In jobs where women predominate -- nursing, health services and other hospital work, dentistry, laundry and cleaning services, textile workers, leather work, food processing, electronics and clerical work involving computer terminals -- similar offers of "protection" from reproductive hazards, either for women or their unborn children, have not been forthcoming, even when the chemicals they are confronted with are identical to those in the occupations from which they are barred.23

For example, women are excluded from jobs in chemical plants that use benzene and toluene, but not from those in the textile and clothing industries or medical laboratories where the same substances are found in high concentrations. Similarly, women X-ray technicians and other health care workers are exposed to comparable radiation hazards to workers in nuclear power plants from which they are excluded.24 When evidence emerged in the 1970s that miscarriage and birth defects were associated with maternal exposure to anaesthetic gases during pregnancy, the option of excluding women from working in hospitals and dental surgeries was not proposed.25 Many studies indicate that the use of computer video display units (VDUs) may be associated with miscarriages, birth defects, and other adverse reproductive effects, yet no one has suggested restricting computer use to men.26

This selective application of flawed "fetal protection policies" has more to do with maintaining segregation of work by gender and by race than with concern for future generations. The jobs women predominate in tend to be low-paid, low status, non-unionized jobs, occupations which are also disproportionately filled with workers from racial and ethnic minority groups.27 The "option" of sterilization has been "offered" when women move into non-traditional jobs; it is, in the words of one critic, a "punishment for invading male turf, a coercively imposed alternative to motherhood".28

More broadly, it is never suggested that women of reproductive capacity should give up their domestic work, despite the modern home being a major source of reproductive hazards (see below).29 And despite the rhetoric of concern for "family life", both employers and the state provide little maternity and paternity leave and benefits, and few childcare arrangements.30

At Home and Away

As Rosalind Petchesky says, "the ideology of 'fetal rights' has brought us back to the Victorian notion that a woman's ... biology should determine where and whether she may work."31 Exclusionary policies based on this ideology pit women's interests against those of the fetus and construct women's interests as mothers in opposition to their interests as workers. This construction helps reinforce the notion that women stay at home while men are at work, a notion which has never been a reality for women of the working-class. In the wake of industrialization's separation of paid work from household life, however, it has gained ground as a dominant middle-class white myth.

It is through tacit appeal to this myth that industry has been able to justify paying women low wages or not employing them at all, thereby keeping them at home and dependent on men and the state. For many women, however, as for many men, there is little choice today over whether to enter the paid workforce, as there was not when Charles Dickens wrote in 1869:

"She was going back [to the lead mill] to get 'took on.' What could she do? Better be ulcerated and paralyzed for eighteen pence a day, while it lasted, than see the children starve".32

The decision of the women at the West Virginia American Cyanamid plant to be sterilized "was not a matter of choice, but one of economic necessity", especially when there was a shortage of well-paid jobs. One of the women said, "They don't have to hold a hammer to your head -- all they have to do is tell you that it's the only way you can keep your job". Another woman supporting a disabled husband said "I did it because I was scared and I have to have the income" while another, a divorced mother of two children said, "What do you have to do to hold a normal job and support your child?"33

Options are fewer still for working-class and non-white women than for middle-class and white women. Today, more women than ever before have to work in the paid labour force and raise children at the same time -- many of them as heads of households. The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has calculated that if every fertile woman were barred from every setting that might be deemed a potential hazard to the fetus, as many as 20 million US jobs would be affected.

Even were the myth true that women do not undertake paid work but "stay at home", the problem of chemical reproductive hazards would not be resolved because in industrialized societies, the home is as polluted as (if not more, in some cases) the workplace. Chemicals do not respect factory boundaries, but enter the community through air pollution, exhaust emissions and incineration of waste; contamination from the skin, hair and clothes of workers when they return home; leaching into the water supply and soil from landfills; and through consumer products such as household cleaning agents, sprays, paints, microwave ovens, pesticides and food additives.34

This suggests that exclusionary policies reflect wider societal attitudes and government policies aimed more at subordinating women politically than at "protecting the fetus" and are "a reaction against women's increasing sexual and economic independence form men, not against their labour force participation, per se".35

Johnson Controls -- and Discriminates

Despite US legislation prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex or pregnancy, the courts have usually upheld such policies when they have been challenged by labour unions.36 In doing so, they have reaffirmed the assumption that women's roles as childbearers and home-bound childcarers supersede their role as paid workers.

In 1984, however, the United Auto Workers challenged a policy introduced two years earlier by Johnson Controls, the largest US manufacturer of lead vehicle batteries, of barring fertile women from exposure to lead. Although company officials maintained that "the issue is protecting the health of unborn children", the Supreme Court ruled in 1991 that the policy was unjustifiably discriminatory, setting a legal precedent.37 The ruling was heralded as "the most important sex discrimination case" since the 1964 Civil Rights Act which introduced legislation against sex discrimination.38

But was it a victory for women to win the right to be exposed to lead? Without a clean-up of the workplace, equal treatment damages women's health, even if workers' are given full information about the hazards. Moreover, it places the risk and blame for adverse reproductive outcome squarely on the shoulders of individual women. Indeed, as a result of the Johnson Controls decision, some companies are insisting that if women work with hazardous substances, they must accept responsibility for any damage that may result.39

The concept of equality upon which the Johnson Controls decision was made is severely limited as it takes no account of reproduction. Using such a legal paradigm merely allows women to have the same right as men to "choose" to poison themselves and their children.

All Men Are Equal -- Women Are Different

The dispute over discrimination versus protection draws attention to dilemmas arising from the fact that in some cases a pregnant woman is at special risk. In trying to gain access to employment, many US women's groups lobbied for pregnancy to be considered equivalent to any condition or illness which might temporarily disable a man, so as to lessen the impact of practices which use the fact that it is women who become pregnant to women's disadvantage.

While such an approach may be useful in some cases, there are drawbacks: in the case of pregnancy, it prevents women from drawing attention to the special needs they have during pregnancy and breast--feeding and strengthens the perception that pregnancy is a disease.

More generally, it reinforces the idea that male physiology (and social behaviour) is the norm from which women deviate. Equality means being "the same as men" rather than encompassing and accepting difference without allowing difference to disadvantage and discriminate.40 As Wendy Chavkin points out, men are never pregnant or breastfeeding:

"a model based on the male as the norm offers an equality of form only; it does not take into account the physical and social realities of women's lives."41

Thus, the assumptions behind "exclusionary policies" and other "protective" legislation are also implicit in the legislation prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of sex.

"No Sex, Please: We're British"

The same societal constructions of women, work and reproduction which led to the apparent absurdities of the Johnson Controls decision lead to similar outcomes in other countries and other fields.

In Britain, the arguments for keeping "protective" legislation42 have been put forward not by employers but by women's groups and the Trades Union Congress, which have advocated extending it to men. Industry and the Conservative government, meanwhile, have argued for repealing it. The Confederation of British Industry, for example, has differentiated between the interests and social responsibilities of different groups of women, rather than regarding them as a homogenous class, and argued that women should be able to choose whether or not they want to work.

Such proponents of removing protective legislation, however, although marshalling the rhetoric of formal legal equality, seemed less concerned with women's equal employment rights than with reducing the regulatory burden on industry and giving employers more flexibility. Just as in the United States, the issue of what type of work and work environment women and men should engage in was completely side-stepped.

With the passing of the Sex Discrimination Bill in 1986, over the opposition of unions and women's groups, protective legislation restricting the employment of women was repealed, including a ban on working at night and special regulations for factory work. The government continues to assess whether remaining health and safety legislation is a "burden to industry" under an overall policy of deregulation.

Health and Hazards

Those lobbying against the Johnson Controls policy do not accept "a dichotomy between 'equality' and 'protection' ... but rather ... a politics concerning reproductive or any occupational health hazards that truly protects all workers, male and female".43

In this respect, the practices of Scandinavian countries are a step in the right direction. Taking the issue of reproductive hazards more seriously, these countries tend to employ the precautionary principle by setting exposure limits for hazardous substances very much lower than other countries, and applying the same limits for many substances to men and women.

What is needed, however, is not just this sort of practice and more research into the effects of potential reproductive hazards. Nor is it just enforcement of regulation on hazardous substances. An informed debate is also required on whether we need the products whose manufacture involves hazardous substances. Without such a debate, it is not sufficient to state that "we are all totally dependent on chemicals," nor to decide that "there is no turning back to man-made [sic] chemical-free existence."44

Neither is it sufficient for industry to state that reduction or substitution is technically impossible or too expensive. Greenpeace are now arguing that whole classes of chemicals, such as organo--chlorines, should be phased out rather than trying to identify what causes what. As occupational health worker Carolyn Bell pointed out, "If scientists can speak of developing colonies for living in outer space ... there is no such excuse as 'technically infeasible'".45

An EEC-funded campaign, Subsprint, has shown that organic solvents used in printing can be substituted with vegetable oil-based products.46 Digital Equipment Corporation eliminated ethylene glycol ethers, solvents commonly used to make micro-chips, from its semiconductor manufacturing processes by early 1990 because women working with these solvents appear to have increased rates of miscarriage. But other companies, such as IBM, are still reviewing the hazards while warning their workers of them.

"Scientists and health officials should address existing hazards and their impact on human health, including reproduction, with the same zeal and fervour as is seen in creating new and better things. Employment will not be curtailed -- just channelled in new directions."47

Third World Exports

Such an approach is critical if industry is not simply to pack up in the North and relocate to the countries of the South or Eastern Europe in response to environmental awareness and public pressure in the North. As demand in the North for chlorine products, such as CFCs, chlorinated solvents, pesticides and pulp bleaching, slackens or is restricted, factories are being set up in Asia, the Pacific Rim and Latin America.48

In the maquiladoras, just across the border from the United States, where most of the Mexican workers are young women, a silent compact between US corporations and the Mexican government "amounts to a waiver of responsibility for the safe use of toxics in the workplace". Reproductive health hazards are expected to worsen as electronics is predicted to be the fastest-growing maquiladora industry, along with companies involved in chemical production and finishing products which require cleaning, priming and painting.49

In the former Eastern Germany, where 63 per cent of women are unemployed, women are being sterilized to be eligible for jobs where employers stipulate that they must guarantee not to become pregnant.50

Reclaiming Work and Home

In addition to recasting reproductive hazards as a problem of substances rather than workers, the gendered segregation of work and childraising need to be examined as well. Before the process of industrial development divided work and home, production was integrated with home and family life for women and for men. Women's work, particularly in agriculture, textiles and health, was indispensable to the household economy -- and regarded as such. For both mothers and fathers, for young and old, the demands of work and childcare could be adjusted to reduce conflict of choice. Reclaiming the freedom of the household economy -- the oikos of "economics" and "ecology" -- requires addressing issues not only of how we work, but where we work and who controls that work. As Rosalind Petchesky points out:

"Sexuality, childbearing and motherhood have always existed in a complex, interactive relationship with the sexual division of labour in production. Different aspects of this relationship, however, change historically and affect women differently with the development of divisions based on class, race and sexual orientation".51

These changes are reflected in the use of the English language: "To 'father' a child suggests ... to provide the sperm which fertilizes the ovum. To 'mother' a child implies a continuing presence, lasting at least for nine months, more often for years."52 Usage is changing still further with the advent of new reproductive technologies, particularly in vitro fertilization (IVF) as the biological and genetic aspects of both words take precedence over the social aspects of either.

Genetic Controls

Indeed, some of the consequences of the extensive use of hazardous chemicals provide a convenient excuse for IVF. Since the birth of the first "test-tube" baby in 1978, the technology has been promoted as a solution to infertility for women and, increasingly, for men. (Sperm dysfunction is the largest cause of couple infertility.53) With the worldwide overall success rate of IVF -- measured in "take home babies" -- at around 10 per cent, the technology does not "solve" infertility for some 90 per cent of women or couples accepted for treatment.

While the medical establishment has assisted some individual women (and men) to have their "own" children, IVF deflects attention from the chemical- and drug-induced causes of infertility.54 IVF in fact circumvents infertility with a "technical fix" rather than treating it, allowing control over human reproduction to pass still further away from women and enabling genetic experimentation and engineering.

Exclusionary policies themselves also have genetic implications; the principle they set, that health and safety can be dealt with by removing workers rather than the hazard, can be applied to other "classes of workers" besides women. Genetic screening, particularly of ethnic minorities, on the grounds that some people may be especially susceptible to the effects of substances, is a prime example of employment discrimination.

In the early 1980s, Dow Chemical and DuPont were reported to have tested thousands of US workers to determine if any of their genes made them vulnerable to certain chemicals in the workplace. Companies have questioned the "genetic acceptability" of hiring blacks, who may have the sickle-cell anaemia trait, as well as of employing Mediterranean and Middle Eastern people, Chinese, Filipinos and East Indians in which similar genetically-related blood disorders occur.55

As with the exclusion of women, the exclusion of workers supposedly at high risk genetically supports the false belief that those who are not excluded are safe.

No Children of Men

P. D. James's thriller The Children of Men is set in the year 2021 when there is apparent universal male infertility: "The last human being to be born on earth [was born] in a Buenos Aires hospital at two minutes past three Western time on 19 October 1995."56 The narrator states that "Western science and Western medicine haven't prepared us for the magnitude and humiliation of this ultimate failure."

The failure he refers to is not infertility itself but the inability to discover its cause. Science alone is unlikely ever to be able to find the cause of such disorders since, as Elaine Draper says:

"corporate and government decisions about which [employment and 'protection'] policies are chosen and how they are carried out will depend only in part on scientific evidence of risks. They will also be shaped by the social and political terrain on which employment and medical decisions are made ... The control of reproductive hazards in the workplace is not simply a question of policy. It is largely a question of power."57

This, rather than the question of how acceptable reproductive health risks are, is the question that needs to be addressed.

Notes and References

1 Draper, E., "Fetal Exclusion Policies and Gendered Constructions of Suitable Work", Social Problems, Vol. 40, No. 1, February 1993, p.91.

2 Chivian, E., McCally, M., Hu, H. and Haines, A., Critical Condition: Human Health and the Environment, The MIT Press, Massachusetts, October 1993, p.83; Paul, M. and Kurtz, S., Reproductive Hazards in the Workplace: Syllabus for clinicians, Occupational and Environmental Reproductive Hazards Center at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, April 1990, p.1.

3 McKechnie, S., "A Trade Union View of Reproductive Health," in Chamberlain, G. (ed.), Pregnant Women at Work, The Royal Society of Medicine and The Macmillan Press Ltd, London 1984, p.193. Another difficulty is actually detecting adverse effects, as they may go unnoticed, for example, early miscarriages. In addition, some adverse effects caused by chemicals are not unusual; an average 10 to 20 per cent of recognized pregnancies and three times as many unrecognized pregnancies end in miscarriage, while two to three per cent of newborns have major congenital abnormalities. Multiple exposure to chemicals and to other biological and physical reproductive hazards mean that a simple correspondence between a single exposure and a particular effect has seldom been identified. This contrasts with the drugs thalidomide and diethylstilbestrol (DES), the effects of which -- truncated limbs and vaginal cancer in offspring respectively -- are rare other than through exposure to these drugs.

4 Fletcher, A. C., Reproductive Hazards of Work, Equal Opportunities Commission, Manchester, 1985, sponsored by the Association of Scientific, Technical and Managerial Staffs (ASTMS), p.iv.

5 As sperm cells are produced continuously in the adult man -- initial cell division in the testes to the formation of mature sperm cells lasts about 74 days -- interference with sperm cell development can reduce their number and lead to deformed, genetically abnormal or slower sperm. A woman, however, is born with all her "egg" cells which are formed during the fetal stage.

6 Hatch, M., "Mother, Father, Worker: Men and Women and the Reproductive Risks of Work" in Chavkin, W., Double Exposure: Women's Health Hazards on the Job and at Home, Monthly Review Press, New York, 1984, pp.161-179.

7 Johnson, M., "Did I begin?", New Scientist, 9 December, 1989, pp.39-42.

8 Draper, E., op. cit.1, p.93.

9 Hatch, M., op.cit.6; Fletcher, A.C., op.cit.4, pp.7-8.

10 Scott, J.A., "Keeping Women in Their Place: Exclusionary Policies and Reproduction" in Chavkin, W., op. cit. 6, p.183.

11 DuPont, however, instituted a policy barring only women of childbearing capacity from exposure to ethylenethiourea, even though company officials acknowledged it can cause thyroid cancer in men and women. Draper, E., op. cit.1, p.93.

12 Paul, M., Daniels, C. and Rosofsky, R., "Corporate Response to Reproductive Hazards in the Workplace", Am. Journal of Ind. Medicine, 16, 1989, pp.267-290.

13 Draper, E., op. cit.1, p.93.

14 Draper, E., op. cit.1, p.92; Scott, J.A., op. cit. 10, p.180.

15 See Kenney, S. J., "The Historical Context for Exclusionary Policies", For Whose Protection? Reproductive Hazards and Exclusionary Policies in the United States and Britain, University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, 1992, pp.11-58.

16 Extracted from Draper, E., op. cit.1. For more information, see Barlow, S.M. and Sullivan, F.M., Reproductive Hazards of Industrial Chemicals, Academic Press, London 1982; Kenen, R. H., Reproductive Hazards in the Workplace: Mending Jobs, Managing Pregnancies, Harrington Park Press (The Haworth Press, Inc), 10 Alice Street, Binghamton, New York 13904-1580; and Paul, M. and Kurtz, S., op. cit.2.

17 Draper, E., op. cit.1, p.96.

18 Draper, E., op. cit.1, p.96. Sally Kenney points out that once women are mere vessels, they can be considered as separate from the fetus and capable of behaving in ways that endanger it. "We can only have this icon or symbol of a disembodied fetus ... if we are thinking of pregnant women as empty space." Kenney, S. J., op. cit. 15.

19 Draper, E., op. cit.1, p.96

20 Scott, J.A., op. cit. 10, p.185.

21 Draper, E., op. cit.1, p.101.

22 After the eighth week, fetal development is mainly growth, and development of the central nervous system, (which can be severely affected by lead)

23 Petchesky, R., "Workers, Reproductive Hazards, and the Politics of Protection: An Introduction", Feminist Studies, Volume 5, No. 2, Summer 1979, p.239; Draper, E., op. cit.1, p.94.

24 Draper, E., op. cit.1, pp.94-5.

25 Fletcher, A.C., op.cit. 4,; Murray, R., "The Hazards of Work in Pregnancy", in Chamberlain, G. (ed.), op. cit.3, pp.31-2; McKechnie, S., op. cit. 3, pp.198-9.

26 London Hazards Centre, VDU Work and the Hazards to Health, London Hazards Centre Trust Limited, London, August 1993.

27 Petchesky, R., op. cit. 23, p.234. See also Bullard, R.D. (ed.), Confronting Environmental Racism: Voices from the Grassroots, South End Press, Boston, 1993.

28 Petchesky, R., op. cit. 23, p.237. Sterilization has frequently, however, been forced on black women and women of ethnic minorities when they come into contact with the health services.

29 For more information on the arbitrary divide between workplace and home as far as human reproduction is concerned, see Chavkin, W., op. cit. 6 and Kenen, R. H., op. cit. 18.

30 Chavkin, W., "Walking a Tightrope: Pregnancy, Parenting, and Work" in Chavkin, W., op. cit. 6, pp.196-213.

31 Petchesky, R., op. cit. 23, p.239.

32 Hunt, V. R., "A Brief History of Women Workers and Hazards in the Workplace," Feminist Studies, Volume 5, No. 2, Summer 1979, p.274.

33 Scott, J.A., op. cit. 10, p.180.

34 Draper, E., op. cit.1, p.91; Chavkin, W., "On the Homefront: Women at Home, and in the Community", in Chavkin, W., op. cit. 6, p.215.

35 Petchesky, R., op. cit. 23, p.236.

36 Although in general "protective" legislation and practices violate Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act, many areas of employment rights pertaining to pregnancy and reproductive hazards are still ill-defined. Draper, E., op. cit.1, 98 and Kenney, S. J., op. cit. 15.

37 For more information on the Johnson Controls case, see Kenney, S. J., op. cit. 15.

38 Bertin, J. E., "People Protection, Not 'Fetal Protection'", New Solutions, Vol. 2, No. 1, Summer 1991, pp.5-9.

39 Fear of compensation is an additional corporate motive behind "fetal protection policies". US industry is wary of the risk of compensation if birth deformities can be traced to occupational exposure, seeing ominous trend in the right of a child to sue third parties for prenatal injuries. Lawsuits have been brought for reproductive damage arising from men's exposure to DBCP, Agent Orange and atomic weapons testing. Wendy Chavkin points out, however, that the "corporate push to maximize profits intersects neatly with ideological sexism".

40 Kenney, S. J., op. cit. 15.

41 Chavkin, W., op. cit.30, p.203.

42 The issue of reproductive hazards has largely been marginal and exceptional in Britain, in part because of a lesser propensity to litigation, but also because of the decisions made by the government, industry and the judiciary. See Wilson, G. K., The Politics of Safety and Health: Occupational Safety and Health in the United States and Britain, Clarendon, Oxford, 1985 and Kenney, S. J., op. cit. 15.

43 Petchesky, R., op. cit. 23, p.239.

44 Richardson, M., "Toxicology: The Essentials for Mankind's Survival", address given at International Environment '93, organized by Labmate Ltd, 12 Alban Park, Hatfield Rd, St Albans, Herts AL4 0JJ, UK.

45 Bell, C., "Implementing Safety and Health Regulations," Feminist Studies, op. cit.32, p.299.

46 The Greening of the UK Print Industry, September 1993, School of Applied Science, University of the South Bank 103 Borough Road, London SE1 0AA, UK.

47 Abdul-Karim, R.W., "Women Workers at Higher Risk of Reproductive Hazards," in Chamberlain, G. (ed.), op. cit.3, p.43.

48 Bruno, K. and Greer, J., "Chlorine industry expansion: The new threat from the North", Third World Resurgence, No. 34, June 1993.

49 Kochan, L., "The Maquiladoras and Toxics: The Hidden Costs of Production South of the Border", manuscript, Oregon Dept. of Environmental Quality.

50 Murray, I., "Employers encourage women to be sterilised," The Times, 22 May, 1992.

51 Petchesky, R., op. cit. 23, p.233.

52 Rich, A., Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution, Virago, London 1977. p.12.

53 Mason, M. C., "Infertility: The Problem with Sperm", Everywoman, February 1993; see also Mason, M. C., Male Infertility: Men Talking, Routledge, 1993.

54 Hynes, P. H., The Recurring Silent Spring, Pergamon Press, Oxford, 1989. p.211.

55 Scott, J.A., op. cit. 10, p.183; See also Hubbard, R. and Wald, E., Exploding the Gene Myth, Beacon Press, Boston, 1993.

56 James, P. D., The Children of Men, Faber and Faber, London, 1992.

57 Draper, E., op. cit.1, p.101.