Chemicals, toxins and pollution

An Australian study identified occupations at risk of toxic exposure including: Transport workers, building industry workers, motor mechanics, farmers and miners.

A study from the USA examined occupational exposures and risk of female infertility and found that women who were exposed in the workplace to chemical dusts, volatile organic solvents, pesticides and video display units had an increased risk of infertility (and VDU’s were associated with increased diagnosis of endometriosis and cervical problems).

Other at risk occupations for toxicity include: Hair dressers, dentists, hospital and health care workers, anesthetists, radiologists, cleaners, long distance travellers, artists, electrical workers, chemical workers, textile workers, printers, lead lighters, plumbers, painters, pest controllers, flight attendants, pilots, airstewards, and smelter workers .


We know that rapidly multiplying cells are affected by radiation and which we associate with nuclear sources. There are actually two types of radiation, ionising and non ionizing.

Ionising is the type used to power nuclear reactions and the material used in X-rays. This has the potential to damage germ cells (sperm and ova), embryonic and foetal cells and the cells of growing children.

Recent findings by Flinders University in South Australia have linked increased miscarriage rates to either partner undergoing a back or abdominal X-ray at any time in the 5 years preceding a pregnancy.

Non ionising radiation is more widespread and its affects on reproductive health less defined. It comes from lasers, microwaves, electrical appliances in the home, mobile phones, television screens and visual display units.

It is recommended that you spend no more than 3 to 4 hours in front of a computer and none at all in the 3 to 4 months preceding conception and the first twelve weeks of pregnancy.

Tips to reduce the ill effects of VDU radiation:

  • Turn of the VDU when ever possible
  • Move away from the screen when involved in other tasks
  • Fit an anti radiation screen to the VDU
  • Be aware that radiation is emitted in all directions from computer so consider your position in relation to other units.
  • Put a packet of epsom salts in front of your screen. This will absorb significant amounts of emitted radiation. When the crystals have become dry and powdery, the packet needs replacing.
  • Grow green plants in the immediate vicinity of the computer to help alleviate electromagnetic pollution, peace lilies are especially recommended.

Electromagnetic radiation is generated by anything conducting electricity. Its effects on reproductive health are still being debated. The use of common devices has been linked to various health problems. These include electric blankets, sunbeds, transformer generators and motors. It is recommended that you avoid electric fields which are generated in your bedroom while you sleep, ie electric blankets, waterbeds, electric clocks and radios.

Microwaves may have adverse affects on chromosomes as well as denaturing proteins and devitalising foods, and should be avoided.

Mobile phones and cordless home phones.

Tips for minimising exposure

  • Limit use
  • Do not wear on your body, especially hip pockets.
  • Use a hands free ear piece and keep phone at least a metre away from your body.
  • Use a anti radiation cover or device for phone

In summary keep your exposure to sources of radiation as low as possible during the preconceptual period and at least the first 3 months of pregnancy.


The average person spends 80%-90% of their time indoors, at home, at work at school or in the car. Leading to increased exposure to microscopic dust, combustion gases, biological indoor pollutants and synthetic chemicals. The fact that we have made our home impervious to the outdoor environment added to the prevalence of air conditioning that recycles air, but does not clean it, contribute significantly to higher concentrations of indoor contaminants.

The inside of our houses are up to 6 time more polluted that the air outside in the city.

We introduce new chemicals into home all the time, in our cleaning routine, deodorisers and fragrances, when we deter or kill pests, fertilise our gardens, dirt we tract into our homes and even how we dust or vacuum to name a few.

Renovating or building a new home also poses toxic threats, as do new cars, and even clothes may be treated with toxic chemicals.

There is now more evidence to show that our exposure to toxins inside our home can be linked to immune dysfunction, acute illness and chronic disease including infertility

Cleaning products in the house are a common source of toxicity, containing many harmful chemicals which may be inhaled, ingested or absorbed. The best way to avoid these is to use a non toxic product like Enjo or environmentally safe cleaning products. Simple and non toxic cleaning tips can be found in this article Clean and Green Cleaning and Beauty.

Who is at risk from poor home hygiene?

  • Infants – they spend a lot of time indoors, have a high metabolic rate compared to adults, breath more rapidly, their blood circulates more quickly and their skin and mucous membranes are large in comparison to their body weight. Their immune systems are also immature, which means they have an increased likelihood of developing sensitivities. Small children also spend more time near to the floor where concentrations of contaminants are usually higher
  • Pregnant women, who may have good health, are putting their foetus at risk as many contaminants cross the placenta.
  • People under stress
  • Asthmatics and Allergy prone people – especially as immune dysfunction can adversely affect fertility (conception, implantation and miscarriage)
  • The elderly

Peter Dingle Environmental toxicologist

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