Workplace exposures to substances like lead and solvents among women who are pregnant or of childbearing age can harm the unborn child. Men’s exposures can damage a fetus as well.
Recent litigation against electronics manufacturers blames workplace exposures for conditions among workers’ children ranging from skeletal abnormalities to severe developmental problems.
Science on the effects of workplace teratogens – substances that can interfere with fetal development – is advancing, but much remains unknown. Subtle impairments in children can be especially hard for researchers to detect.
A Center for Public Integrity analysis of 30 years of Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspection data found that, across all industries, 40 percent of air samples testing positive for lead were over the legal limit.
The state of California, mindful of new science showing lead’s harmful effects at extremely low levels, is in the process of dramatically tightening its workplace exposure limit for the metal.