Exposure to toxic chemicals in food, water and air is linked to millions of deaths, and costs billions of dollars every year, according to a report by an international organisation of medical professionals.
Among the poor health outcomes linked to pesticides, air pollutants, plastics and other chemicals, according to the report from the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO), an organisation representing obstetrical and gynecological associations from 125 countries, are miscarriage and still births, an increase in cancer, attention problems and hyperactivity.
"Exposure to toxic environmental chemicals during pregnancy and breastfeeding is ubiquitous and is a threat to healthy human reproduction," the report states.
The piece was written by a team of physicians and scientists from the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada, including from the World Health Organisation.
It was published in the International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics ahead of a global conference on women's health issues next week in Vancouver, British Columbia.
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"We are drowning our world in untested and unsafe chemicals and the price we are paying in terms of our reproductive health is of serious concern," Gian Carlo Di Renzo, a physician and lead author of the FIGO opinion.
Chemical manufacturing is expected to grow fastest in developing countries in the next five years, according to FIGO.
The group said international trade agreements such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TPP), under negotiation between the United States and the European Union, lack much-needed protections against toxic chemicals.
The report also cited several examples of the range of the problem: seven million people worldwide die each year because of exposure to indoor and outdoor air pollution; healthcare and other costs from exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals in Europe are estimated at a minimum of 157 billion euros a year; and the cost of childhood diseases related to environmental toxins and pollutants in air, food, water, soil and in homes and neighbourhoods in the United States was calculated at R 104 billion ($77 billion) in 2008.
FIGO said health professionals should advocate for policies to prevent exposure to toxic environmental chemicals as well as to ensure a healthy food system, among other recommendations.
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Image: Pregnant woman in a wheat field from iStock