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Environ Health Perspect. 1993 Jul;101 Suppl 2:125-30.

Environmental release of chemicals and reproductive ecology.

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Department of Medicine, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi.


Reproductive ecology is defined as "the study of causes and mechanisms of the effects of environmental risk factors on reproductive health and the methods of their prevention and management." Major areas of concern, within the purview of this paper, relate to adverse pregnancy outcomes, effects on target tissues in the male and the female, and alterations in the control and regulatory mechanisms of reproductive processes. Teratogenic potential of chemicals, released as a result of accidents and catastrophes, is of critical significance. Congenital Minamata disease is due to transplacental fetal toxicity caused by accidental ingestion of methyl mercury. Generalized disorders of ectodermal tissue following prenatal exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls have been reported in Taiwan and Japan. The Bhopal gas disaster, a catastrophic industrial accident, was due to a leak of toxic gas, methyl isocyanate (MIC), in the pesticide manufacturing process. The outcome of pregnancy was studied in female survivors of MIC exposure. The spontaneous abortion rate was nearly four times more common in the affected areas as compared to the control area (24.2% versus 5.6%; p < 0.0001). Furthermore, while stillbirth rate was found to be similar in the affected and control areas, the perinatal and neonatal mortality rates were observed to be higher in the affected area. The rate of congenital malformations in the affected and control areas did not show any significant difference. Chromosomal aberrations and sister chromatid exchange (SCE) frequencies were investigated in human survivors of exposure. The observed SCE frequencies in control and exposed groups indicated that mutagenesis has been induced. Strategies for the management, prediction, and preventability of such disasters are outlined.

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