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REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH CARE:
WORKPLACE TOXINS AND THE AFRICAN AMERICAN WORKER

Annotated Bibliography


Craig Newburger
3rd Year Law Student
The University of Dayton School of Law
Fall 1998


Introduction

The impact of workplace toxins on reproductive health care is examined in this annotated bibliography. More specifically, the impact of workplace toxins on African American health issues will be considered, due to this group's documented disproportionate exposure to hazardous substances in the workplace. Resources specific to the disparate exposure of members of the African American community are not plentiful, but based on a number of existing sources, reasoned inferences can be drawn from more general sources. 

African Americans are overrepresented among the workers in laundry and dry cleaning, tobacco manufacture, fabric mills, smelters, hospitals, and farmwork. These industries expose workers to pesticides, heat, mechanical hazards, noise, toxic chemicals and dust, and these exposures are often combined with poverty and poor medical care. 

A large number of African Americans are at or below the poverty level, and because there is a higher proportion of African Americans with no or inadequate health-insurance coverage availability of quality health care for the poor Black community is low. Life at the poverty level is oriented to the provision of food, clothing and shelter rather than the prevention of an illness that may take 10 to 20 years to develop. 

Any assumption that exposure to dangerous substances in the workplace is most likely to occur inside the wombs of mothers-to-be, is simply inaccurate. A series of studies have raised the possibility that the fault can sometimes lie with the father. Exposure to workplace toxins may silently damage a man's sperm and thus lead to birth defects. 

Existing research shows that both men and women workers suffer genetic and reproductive injuries from exposure to workplace toxins. Related toxic exposure injuries include infertility, various pregnancy-related injuries such as spontaneous abortion and stillbirth, cancer in children of exposed workers, and various genetically-related disorders.

Economic recovery for the injuries brought on by exposure to workplace toxins is difficult to acquire through legal action. Although workers' compensation was created to help workers recover for injuries suffered on the job, the requirements of these statutes hinder recovery for toxic reproductive and genetic injuries sustained in the workplace. An injured worker may have difficulty demonstrating the required work-relatedness of the illness and many employees who develop reproductive or genetic injuries are not physically disabled from work. Additionally, although the worker experiences the most direct exposure to a toxic substance, third parties, such as the worker's offspring, often suffer the full force of the injury, and chemically induced genetic mutations may not occur in the hereditary line for one or more generations.

The exclusivity rules of workers' compensation statutes may bar workers from bringing common-law tort actions against their employers even if the injuries involved are not compensable under the relevant statute. As such, contemporary legal remedies for injuries brought on by workplace toxins are quite limited. 

Breakthroughs in medical research demonstrating a causal link between exposure to workplace toxins and resultant injuries are occurring, albeit, not at a frenetic pace. More importantly, some state laws considering the apparent public and social policy issues arising from the aforementioned inequities are being enacted. In California, for example, a child conceived, but not yet born, is now deemed an existing person, so far as necessary for the child's interests in the event of the child's subsequent birth. A child and her parents' successful action against the mother's employer to recover damages for the child's in utero injuries allegedly caused when mother breathed toxic fumes in her workplace has already been upheld by the California Supreme Court. California has additionally enacted the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act. The Act requires warnings when workers, consumers or the general public are exposed to substances causing cancer or birth defects. When manufacturers, sales personnel, and so on, have to disclose to workers or customers in clear language, "This stuff that you are currently exposed to can cause cancer or birth defects," corresponding changes may be forthcoming. Unfortunately, for poorer African American workers daily subsistence concerns may simply out weigh concerns about things less immediate.

The annotations below are presented in the following order of sources: cases; law journal; law reviews; national academic newsletter; national news wire; periodicals; medical research reports; statutes; and, a recommended video.


The following articles are included in this bibliography:

David Bernstein, Occupational Asthma

Blacks and Cancer

Burden of proof in disparate impact cases.

California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO v. California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board

Morris E. Davis, The Impact of Workplace Health And Safety on Black Workers: Assessment and Prognosis

Jean Macchiaroli Eggen, Toxic Reproductive And Genetic Hazards in The Workplace: Challenging The Myths of The Tort And Workers' Compensation Systems

Equal rights under the law.

Jessica Guynn, California Industries Struggle with "Fetal Protection" Rules

Hazardous Inheritance: Workplace Dangers to Reproductive Health 

Hurd v. Monsanto Co. and Westinghouse Electric Corp

International Union, United Automobile Workers

Arlene F. Kantor et al., Occupations of Fathers of Patients With Wilm's Tumour

Marja-Lusa Lindbohm et al., Effects of Paternal Occupational Exposure in Spontaneous Abortions

Christine N. O'Brien, Margo E.K. Reder, Gerald A. Madek & Gerald R. Ferrera, Employer Fetal Protection Policies At Work: Balancing Reproductive Hazards With Title VII Rights

Andrew F. Olshan et al., Birth Defects Among Offspring of Firemen

Andrew Purvis, The Sins of The Fathers: Both Parents May be Vulnerable to Toxins That Cause Birth Defects

Vernellia R. Randall, Slavery, Segregation And Racism: Trusting The Health Care System Ain't Always Easy! An African American Perspective On Bioethics

Reproductive health. A father's role. 

Required warning before exposure to chemicals known to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity.

Charlotte Rutherford, Reproductive Freedoms And African American Women

David A. Savitz & Jianjua Chen, Parental Occupation and Childhood Cancer: Review of Epidemiological Studies

Smith v. Olin Chemical Corporation

Jill Smolowe, Weighing Some Heavy Metal: The Supreme Court Rules That Potential Health Risks to a Fetus Are no Excuse to Discriminate Against Women in The Workplace

Snyder v. Michael's Stores, Inc

Helena Taskinen et al., Spontaneous Abortions And Congenital Malformations Among The Wives of Men Occupationally Exposed to Organic Solvents

Unborn child deemed existing person

Unlawful employment practices.

 


 


Annotations
CASES

California Labor Federation,  AFL-CIO v. California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board, 271 Cal.Rptr. 310 (Cal. 1990).

Labor and environmental organizations, as well as individuals, petitioned for a writ ordering the state Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board to adopt the standards set out in the occupational safety and health warning and enforcement provisions of the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act. The provisions require persons in the course of doing business to warn individuals exposed to chemicals known to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity. The Court of Appeal held that the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act constituted state law governing occupational safety and health, requiring that the state plan for occupational safety and health adopt the aforementioned provisions.

The Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act was approved by California voters in 1986 as Proposition 65. The Act requires warnings when workers, consumers or the general public are exposed to substances causing cancer or birth defects.


Hurd v. Monsanto Co. and Westinghouse Electric Corp., 908 F.Supp. 604 (S.D. Indiana 1995).

Employees brought a class action lawsuit against their employer and sole manufacturer of polychlorinated biphenyl dielectric fluid (PCBs) for injuries from their exposure to PCBs in the manufacturing electrical capacitors. The District Court held: (1) the employees were not disabled from earning full wages at the work they were engaged in when last exposed to hazards, to be within the exclusive remedy provision of Indiana's Occupational Disease Act; (2) the employees failed to allege that their employer used PCBs in its manufacturing process with intent of injuring their employees for intentional injury exception to workers' compensation exclusivity provision to apply; (3) the employees' claims for economic harms that originated from health risks associated with their exposure to PCBs were subject to workers' compensation exclusivity; (4) even if the employees' claims were not barred by workers' compensation exclusivity, they were preempted by statute for failing to exhaust contractual remedies; but (5) the employees alleged fraud against the manufacturer with sufficient particularity.

A plaintiff alleging fraud must state the identity of a person making the alleged misrepresentation, the time, place, and content of the misrepresentation, and the method by which the misrepresentation was communicated to the plaintiff. Additionally, deliberate exposure a to chemical agent that is merely likely to cause harm or increase risks of subsequent illnesses falls short of knowing that an injury was certain to occur, as required for intentional tort exception to exclusive remedy provision of Indiana Workers' Compensation Act. 

This case illustrates the difficulties that workers face receiving tort recoveries from their employers as a result of their exposure to workplace toxins. First, the employees may be limited to only the recoveries allowed under their state's workers' compensation statute. Second, without being able to show causation to a suitable degree of scientific certainty (between the toxins and their injuries), recovery may also be denied.



International Union, United Automobile Workers, 499 U.S. 187 (1991).

A class action was brought challenging an employer's policy barring all women, except those whose infertility was medically documented, from jobs involving actual or potential lead exposure exceeding the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standard. The Supreme Court held that: (1) the employer's policy was facially discriminatory, and (2) the employer did not establish that sex was a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ).

The employer's policy was facially discriminatory because it required only female employees to produce proof that they were not capable of reproducing, despite evidence of the debilitating effect of lead exposure on the male reproductive system. The beneficence of the employer's purpose did not undermine the court's conclusion that such an explicit gender-based policy was sex discrimination which failed to be defended as a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ) reasonably necessary to the normal operation of that particular business or enterprise. See 42 U.S.C.A. 2000e-2(a)(1)(2),(k)(1)(A)(i)(1998). 



Smith v. Olin Chemical Corporation, 555 F.2d 1283 (5th Cir. 1977).

An action was brought alleging racial discrimination in employment. The Court of Appeals held that, assuming that the preconditioning of employment for manual labor on the absence of bad backs or degenerative spinal conditions operates to discriminate against Black Americans in substantially disproportionate percentages, an employer should not be forced to satisfy an evidentiary burden of proving business necessity; not every physical requirement is so manifestly job related as to make evidentiary proof unnecessary, but a good back is so directly related to job performance in manual labor that the employment requirement is patently neither artificial nor arbitrary and is obviously related to business necessity.

The court opined that a facially neutral job criterion can be so manifestly job related as not to be the kind of artificial, arbitrary and unnecessary barrier prohibited by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and in such a case, the employer need not make an evidentiary showing of business necessity, even though the criterion may have a discriminatory impact.

An interesting aspect of this case involves Olin Chemical Corporation's hire of Smith as a probationary employee. Smith performed his work satisfactorily, and after 90 days was given a physical exam required of the firm's permanent employees. The exam X-rays of the plaintiff's spine led the company doctor to the conclusion that Smith had "bone degeneration with a prognosis of possible further bone degeneration in his spinal region" and as a result was "disqualified for manual labor at the plant." When the doctor told Smith of that conclusion, Smith responded by saying the diagnosis could be explained by his history of sickle cell anemia, a blood disease found almost exclusively in descendants of tribes living in malarial regions of Africa. Smith was discharged. 

This case clarifies that employers can reasonably refuse to hire or discharge workers with preconditions that can be directly related by employers as identifiable impairments to workers' continuing effective job performance. Good backs as an actual business necessity for certain types of employment, can easily be distinguished from fertile women and men who voluntarily expose themselves to workplace toxins that could affect their future reproductive activity.



Snyder v. Michael's Stores, Inc., 68 Cal.Rptr.2d 476 (1997).

A child and her parents brought an action against the mother's employer to recover damages for the child's in utero injuries allegedly caused when mother breathed toxic fumes in her workplace. The California Supreme Court held that the workers' compensation exclusivity rule did not bar a child's cause of action for her own injuries or her parents' claim for consequential losses due to child's injuries.

A California statute (Cal.Civ.Code 43.1) providing that a child conceived, but not yet born, is deemed existing person, so far as necessary for child's interests in event of child's subsequent birth, gives child the right to maintain action in tort for in utero injuries wrongfully or negligently caused by another, a right that did not exist at common law. 


LAW JOURNAL

Morris E. Davis, The Impact of Workplace Health And Safety on Black Workers: Assessment and Prognosis, 31 Labor Law Journal 723, 723-732 (1980).

Davis' article is a must for anyone desiring to develop a historical perspective regarding the impact of workplace hazards on African Americans. Of course, it is time-bound, but the author looked back on the impact of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, a decade later, on the African American workforce. His conclusion that blacks were disproportionately exposed to workplace hazards when compared with members of other groups was substantiated by compelling statistics.

Davis indicated that African Americans comprised 15% of all trade union membership, with over three million Black trade unionists. He reviewed that 15% of the Black workforce was unable to work due to permanent or partial-job related disabilities; Black workers were one and one-half times more likely than whites to be severely disabled from job-related injuries and illnesses; and Blacks faced a 20% greater chance than whites of dying from job-related injuries and illnesses. Much of the article addressed the exposure of Blacks to workplace toxins (described as carcinogenic substances, dangerous gases and particles, and so on). A 1976 study of over 6,500 rubber workers in a large tire manufacturing facility revealed that Black workers were concentrated in the more dangerous compounding and mixing areas. 27% of the Black workers worked in this area of the plant, as compared to only 3% of the white workers. Davis' combination of statistics with such compelling examples chronicled an era of selective exposure to workplace hazards. 


LAW REVIEWS

Jean Macchiaroli Eggen, Toxic Reproductive And Genetic Hazards in The Workplace: Challenging The Myths of The Tort And Workers' Compensation Systems, 60 Fordham Law Review 843, 843-864 (1992). 

This article examines how, although, various scientific studies suggest a causal connection between workers' reproductive and genetic injuries and their exposure to toxins in the workplace, because of legal causation standards of proof, workers and affected family members often cannot prove a causal connection between a toxic exposure and a corresponding injury sufficient to recover under existing workers' compensation and tort laws. 

The article reviews that reproductive injuries, such as infertility and spontaneous abortion, can often be virtually indistinguishable from background levels of these conditions in the general population. Additionally, although the worker experiences the most direct exposure to a toxic substance, third parties, such as the worker's offspring, often suffer the full force of the injury. Finally, chemically induced genetic mutations may not occur in the hereditary line for one or more generations.

The article points out that studies estimate that up to fourteen million American workers may be exposed each year to potential reproductive hazards in the workplace. The Centers for Disease Control have included reproductive disorders among the ten most common work-related complaints in the United States. Existing studies show that both men and women workers suffer genetic and reproductive injuries from exposure to workplace toxins. These toxic exposure injuries include infertility, various pregnancy-related injuries such as spontaneous abortion and stillbirth, cancer in children of exposed workers, and various genetically-related disorders.

Although workers' compensation was created to help workers recover for injuries suffered on the job, the requirements of these statutes hinder recovery for toxic reproductive and genetic injuries sustained in the workplace. An injured worker may have difficulty demonstrating the required work-relatedness of the illness and many employees who develop reproductive or genetic injuries are not physically disabled from work. The exclusivity rules of workers' compensation statutes may bar workers from bringing common-law tort actions against their employers even if the injuries involved are not compensable under the relevant statute. The article concludes that inequalities that exist for victims of reproductive and genetic workplace injuries undermine the compensation and deterrence goals of workers' compensation.

This article addresses critical issues facing persons exposed to workplace toxins. At present, their may be no legal remedy for many of their related illnesses and injuries. Although, this article is now several years old, its assertions still accurately depict key issues confronting persons exposed to workplace toxins. 

 



Christine N. O'Brien, Margo E.K. Reder, Gerald A. Madek & Gerald R. Ferrera, Employer Fetal Protection Policies At Work: Balancing Reproductive Hazards With Title VII Rights, 74 Marquette Law Review 147, 186-190 (1991).

This article was written on the heels of a landmark Supreme Court case, International Union, United Auto Workers v. Johnson Controls. The case involved a challenge of an employer's policy barring all women, except those whose infertility was medically documented, from jobs involving actual or potential lead exposure exceeding the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standard. The Supreme Court held that: (1) the employer's policy was facially discriminatory, and (2) the employer did not establish that sex was a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ).

The article does a good job of methodically walking the reader through compelling divisive workplace issues involving legal, economic, medical as well as moral concerns about employer fetal protection policies ("FPPs"). Advances in occupational medicine, toxicology and scientific studies are beginning to uncover effects from numerous workplace toxins with possible long term adverse health and reproductive consequences. As such, this article provides a primer for someone looking for a comprehensive overview of this area.

The article points out that employers, concerned with both fetal health and the specter of massive tort liability for injured third parties, were caught in a legal crossfire: do nothing about these issues and be sued by injured parties, or utilize an FPP and be sued by workers denied their equal employment rights. The article reviewed employers' typical contention that there was no acceptable level of risk for possible harm to fetuses involuntarily exposed to workplace toxins through their mothers--"perfect risk protection," in other words, was their solution. The excluded employees, more often than not, were single women heads of households with relatively low socioeconomic status and educational credentials. They argued that FPPs amounted to sex discrimination requiring them and not their male counterparts to choose between their livelihood and parenthood in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The article is lengthy, detailed and methodically written. Its resources are comprehensive and well integrated into the text, making this selection a must for someone seeking introduction into this legal area.



Vernellia R. Randall, Slavery, Segregation And Racism: Trusting The Health Care System Ain't Always Easy! An African American Perspective On Bioethics, 15 Saint Louis University Public Law Review,191, 222-223 (1996).

This article examines the historical roots and contemporary presence of bioethical issues involving African American healthcare. Reproductive healthcare issues related to workplace toxins are concisely summarized. The author's conclusion that, although, women are currently protected from forced sterilization in order to maintain higher paying jobs, "African American women could be rendered infertile simply by doing their jobs," underscores the disproportionate affect of workplace toxins on members of the African American community. The over representation of African Americans in jobs with high levels of exposure to workplace toxins is stressed. 

This article examines the "big picture" regarding African American bioethical healthcare issues. The comprehensive examination of the area gives the reader a broad-based perspective of how the pieces come together and impact the contemporary African American community.



Charlotte Rutherford, Reproductive Freedoms And African American Women, 4 Yale Journal of Law and Feminism 255, 275-279 (1992).

This article reviews how African Americans are overrepresented among the workers in laundry and dry cleaning, tobacco manufacture, fabric mills, smelters, hospitals, and farmwork. The author points out that these industries expose workers to pesticides, heat, mechanical hazards, noise, toxic chemicals and dust, and these exposures are often combined with poverty and poor medical care. 

The author asserts that the Supreme Court's ruling in United Automobile Workers v. Johnson Controls, Inc., commonly called the "fetal protection" case, prohibits an employer from excluding all women of child-bearing capacity from certain jobs even if the employer's goal is to prevent possible damage to potential or developing fetuses. The assertion further outlines that, although, the result protects women from having to choose between their jobs and their ability to have children, it does not address the work conditions that place women and their fetuses at risk. Additionally, such policies do not recognize that hazardous work conditions can adversely affect men's reproductive capacity. In other words, the ruling did not address the broader issue of unsafe conditions for all workers. 

The article examines a broad range of reproductive issues (prenatal care, contraceptives and sex education, surrogacy, sterilization, workplace toxins, and abortion) facing African American women. It serves as a helpful overview and provides useful resources for each of the areas considered.

 



NATIONAL ACADEMIC NEWSLETTER

Reproductive health. A father's role. Harvard Health Letter, October 1992, at 5.

This article points out that research has revealed that 8-10% of sperm from apparently healthy men with no history of heritable disease are abnormal. Further, scientists do not know how these abnormalities might translate into problems for any children conceived by such sperm. The article speculates that paternal exposure to drugs, alcohol, radiation, and workplace toxins may be implicated in miscarriages, stillbirths, congenital defects, low birth weight, behavioral or learning difficulties, and even some types of cancer. The article points out that despite the difficulty proving a causal relationship between paternal exposures to workplace toxins and reproductive risks, prospective parents should seriously consider the possibility as viable. 


NEWS WIRE 

Jessica Guynn, California Industries Struggle with "Fetal Protection" Rules, Knight-Ridder Trib. Bus. News, December 7, 1997 (No Page), available in Westlaw, 1997 WL 18955444.

This article reported corporate and public reactions to the California Supreme Court's Oct. 30, 1997 decision in Snyder et al. v. Michael's Stores. The court's ruling cleared the way for a lawsuit by a brain-damaged 3-year-old allegedly exposed before birth to carbon monoxide at her mother's workplace. The ruling reversed a long-standing appeals court decision that barred such suits, on the theory that the child was suing for injuries suffered by the mother, whose claims were limited to workers' compensation benefits. The article reviewed that federal law prohibits employers from adopting "fetal protection" policies that exclude women from hazardous jobs. Instead, employers must try to make working conditions as safe as possible, advise women of the potential risks and let them decide for themselves or risk claims of pregnancy discrimination.

The article summarized reactions such as Patricia Shiu's, a senior staff attorney with the Employment Law Center, "Men and women should not have to choose between their health or the health of their unborn children and their right to work in a healthful and safe workplace." "The decision merely affords the same legal protection to workers that already exists for a businesses' customers who are pregnant." The decision drew fire from employer groups, but was hailed by employee rights advocates as a victory for women in the workplace.


PERIODICALS

Blacks and Cancer, U.S. News & World Report, October 22, 1990, at 21, available in Westlaw, 1990 WL 3578374.

This article recognizes that Blacks represent a larger proportion of America's blue-collar work force. The article also recognizes that blue-collar workers tend to smoke more, and, more importantly, Blacks in certain industries had higher exposure to hazardous substances in the workplace and, therefore, developed higher rates of certain cancers, such as lung, bladder and prostate.

The article further recognizes that because there is a high proportion of African Americans that are at or below the poverty level, and because there is a higher proportion of African Americans with no or inadequate health-insurance coverage, availability of quality cancer-prevention and control services for the Black community is low. The conclusion presented suggests that life at the poverty level is oriented to the provision of food, clothing and shelter rather than prevention of an illness that may take 10 to 20 years to develop. 



Andrew Purvis, The Sins of The Fathers: Both Parents May be Vulnerable to Toxins That Cause Birth Defects, Time, November 26, 1990, at 90, available in Westlaw, 1990 WL 2757673.

This article attacked the inaccurate assumption that exposure to dangerous substances in the workplace is most likely to occur inside the wombs of mothers-to-be. It pointed out that a series of studies have raised the possibility that the fault can sometimes lie with the father. Exposure to workplace toxins may silently damage a man's sperm and thus lead to birth defects. 

The article appropriately highlighted that the reports do not prove a causal link, however, the increasing number of such studies reflects the need for concern about an issue that some experts feel is long overdue. Dr. Ellen Silbergeld, a toxicologist at the University of Maryland, for example, reviewed, "There has been a sense [among scientists studying birth defects] that reproduction is something that women do, and that men don't contribute very much. That is simply not true." Researchers have long known that certain poisons can produce so-called "dominant lethal effects" in men. In these cases, the sperm is so damaged that it fails either to fertilize the egg or to produce a viable embryo. Little was known, however, whether toxins could trigger more insidious defects in the sperm--problems subtle enough to allow the birth of the child but still be harmful enough to produce serious malformations.



Jill Smolowe, Weighing Some Heavy Metal: The Supreme Court Rules That Potential Health Risks to a Fetus Are no Excuse to Discriminate Against Women in The Workplace, Time, April 1, 1991, at 60, available in Westlaw, 1991 WL 3118605. 

This article detailed the significance of and public reaction to the Supreme Court's decision in the case of Automobile Workers v.Johnson Controls, Inc. The Court

addressed for the first time the controversial issue of industrial fetal-protection policies. The Court held that the rights of a fertile woman to work in the job she wants and is qualified for, takes precedence over the rights of employers to impose work rules to protect her unborn children. The decision could affect millions of workingwomen as companies can no longer exclude fertile females from certain high-risk jobs because of the potential harm to unborn babies.

Justice Harry Blackmun wrote, in a majority opinion for five Justices, "Women as capable of doing their jobs as their male counterparts may not be forced to choose between having a child and having a job. Decisions about the welfare of future children must be left to the parents who conceive, bear, support and raise them rather than to the employers who hire those parents."

This article provides a good overview of public reaction to the Court's ruling. Women's rights activists, labor unions and civil liberties groups hailed the ruling as a major victory. "The court made it clear today that sex discrimination is not a legal solution to workplace hazards," said Judith Lichtman, president of the Women's Legal Defense Fund. "The Justices struck down a sex-based policy that threatened to deny 15 million to 20 million industrial jobs to women." Corporate officials expressed fear that companies may now be exposed to large damage suits once they revise policies that the Court found to be in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sex discrimination. 


RESEARCH REPORTS

David Bernstein, Occupational Asthma, 278 Journal of the American Medical Association 1907, 1907-1913 (1997).

In a 1997 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr. David Bernstein pointed out that occupational asthma (OA) constitutes about 2-15% of all asthma cases worldwide. OA, Dr. Bernstein asserts, can manifest itself after a 1-3 year latent period of asymptomatic exposure (to such allergens as flour/food proteins, lab animals, latex, contaminating insects, enzymes, and particularly the diisocyanates [used for plastic polymerization, coating and adhesives]). He stressed that avoidance as early as possible after onset of symptoms is very important because those with OA who continue to be exposed to allergens may eventually develop severe asthma that persists for years after eventually leaving work. The significance of this article involves researcher recognition of a causal relationship between asthma and exposure to workplace substances.



Arlene F. Kantor et al., Occupations of Fathers of Patients With Wilm's Tumour, 33 Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 253, 253-256 (1979)

A study of paternal occupation among 149 children-patients with Wilm's tumor (a childhood cancer of the kidney), showed that a significantly greater number of their fathers were exposed to lead on the job, compared to fathers of a control group of children without the disease. This study did not, however, prove a causal link, it merely significantly suggested that such a link exists.



Marja-Lusa Lindbohm et al., Effects of Paternal Occupational Exposure in Spontaneous Abortions, American Journal of Public Health, 1029-1033 (August 1991).

A nationwide study of 99,186 pregnancies in Finland showed increased likelihood of spontaneous abortion if the father was occupationally exposed to rubber chemicals, solvents used in the manufacture of rubber products, solvents used in oil refineries,or ethylene oxide. This study did not, however, prove a causal link, it merely significantly suggested that such a link exists.



Andrew F. Olshan et al., Birth Defects Among Offspring of Firemen, 131 AMERICAN JOURNAL OF EPIDEMIOLOGY, 312-321 (1990).

A study of 22,192 children born with birth defects in British Columbia related paternal occupation as a fire fighter to the occurrence of the children's heart defects. Fire fighters are often heavily exposed to carbon monoxide and to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)--chemicals in smoke and soot. This study did not, however, prove a causal link, it merely significantly suggested that such a link exists.



David A. Savitz & Jianjua Chen, Parental Occupation and Childhood Cancer: Review of Epidemiological Studies, 88 Environmental Health Perspectives, 325-337 (1990).

A recent review of several studies of paternal occupational exposures in relation to childhood cancer in the offspring showed consistently that work in hydrocarbon-related occupations (the petroleum and chemical industries), especially exposure to paint, is associated with brain cancer. Male exposure to paint is also linked to leukemia in offspring. This study did not, however, prove a causal link, it merely significantly suggested that such a link exists.



Helena Taskinen et al., Spontaneous Abortions And Congenital Malformations Among The Wives of Men Occupationally Exposed to Organic Solvents, Scandinavian Journal of Work, 15 Environment And Health, 345-352 (1989).

A study of 6000 men in Finland indicated that paternal exposure to organic solvents nearly tripled the likelihood of spontaneous abortion as a pregnancy outcome, compared to controls not exposed to organic solvents. Painters and wood workers (e.g., carpenters in the construction, furniture and the boat industries) were found to be at risk. The solvent toluene stood out as a particularly bad agent in his study. This study did not, however, prove a causal link, it merely significantly suggested that such a link exists.

 



STATUTES

CALIFORNIA CODES, CIVIL CODE, DIVISION 1-PERSONS, PART 2- PERSONAL RIGHTS (1998).

43.1. Unborn child deemed existing person

A child conceived, but not yet born, is deemed an existing person, so far as necessary for the child's interests in the event of the child's subsequent birth.


CALIFORNIA HEALTH AND SAFETY CODE, DIVISION 20, MISCELLANEOUS HEALTH AND SAFETY PROVISIONS, CHAPTER 6.6. SAFE DRINKING WATER AND TOXIC ENFORCEMENT ACT OF 1986.

25249.6. Required warning before exposure to chemicals known to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity.

No person in the course of doing business shall knowingly and intentionally expose any individual to a chemical known to the state to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity without first giving clear and reasonable warning to such individual, except as provided in Section 25249.10.


UNITED STATES CODE ANNOTATED
TITLE 42. THE PUBLIC HEALTH AND WELFARE
CHAPTER 21--CIVIL RIGHTS

42 U.S.C.A. 1981 (1998)

1981(a)(c). Equal rights under the law.
(a) Statement of equal rights

All persons within the jurisdiction of the United States shall have the same right in every State and Territory to make and enforce contracts, to sue, be parties, give evidence, and to the full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of persons and property as is enjoyed by white citizens, and shall be subject to like punishment, pains, penalties, taxes, licenses, and exactions of every kind, and to no other.

(c) Protection against impairment

The rights protected by this section are protected against impairment by nongovernmental discrimination and impairment under color of State law.


42 U.S.C.A. 2000e-2 (1998)

2000e-2(a)(1)(2),(k)(1)(A)(i). Unlawful employment practices.

(a) Employer practices

It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer-

(1) to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin; or

(2) to limit, segregate, or classify his employees or applicants for employment in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

(k) Burden of proof in disparate impact cases.

(1)(A) An unlawful employment practice based on disparate impact is established under this subchapter only if--

(i) a complaining party demonstrates that a respondent uses a particular employment practice that causes a disparate impact on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin and the respondent fails to demonstrate that the challenged practice is job related for the position in question and consistent with business necessity.

When an employer is able to demonstrate that the challenged practice is job related for the position in question and consistent with business necessity, this is known as a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ).


VIDEO

Hazardous Inheritance: Workplace Dangers to Reproductive Health (Cambridge Documentary Films, Inc. 1998).
 

This 24 minute video is about the widespread hazards in the workplace that can cause infertility, miscarriage, stillbirth, birth defects and even childhood cancer. Participating in "Hazardous Inheritance" are: 

Dr. Maureen Paul, an obstetrician/gynecologist and occupational health specialist. She is a professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and the director of the only clinic in the nation devoted to occupational and environmental reproductive health hazards. 

Nancy Gertner, an attorney, with specialization in reproductive rights. In this presentation, she outlines the current state of law regarding reproductive health hazards and addresses corresponding corporate responsibility. 

Nellie Knight, a supervisor of a hospital sterile processing department, with hands-on experience in workplace modification addressing reproductive safety needs. 

The medical and legal issues are presented clearly and in a manner suitable for audiences with no prior background in reproductive hazards present in workplaces. 



Related Pages:
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Always Under Construction!

 

Contact Information:
Professor Vernellia R. Randall
Institute on Race, Health Care and the Law
The University of Dayton School of Law
300 College Park 
Dayton, OH 45469-2772
Email: randall@udayton.edu

 

Last Updated:
 03/10/2010

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