It is prudent for individuals of childbearing age to consider potential reproductive hazards (e.g. chemicals, biological agents, and ionizing radiation) in the laboratory environment. Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) can assist with reproductive hazard identification, risk assessment and formulating risk mitigation strategies. A physician or medical professional should be consulted to perform an individual risk assessment if there are additional questions or concerns related to an individual's health status. Conditions such as asthma, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, etc., can compromise immune function and increase vulnerability to infections.
The information below is provided as a resource to assist you in identifying laboratory related risks and developing potential mitigation strategies when working in the laboratory environment. In most cases, following standard, prudent laboratory safety practices allows individuals who are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or of reproductive age, to work safely.
Exposure to certain chemicals may have a negative effect on the reproductive capability of both women and men. Some chemicals may pass from mother to fetus and/or from mother to baby through breastfeeding; most relevant are the categories of reproductive toxins, which include teratogens and embryotoxins, carcinogens and mutagens. When evaluating laboratory chemicals for reproductive risks, a GHS-compliant chemical label is your first source for this information. Safety Data Sheets (SDS) can provide further details and useful indicators, such as standardized Hazard Statements, which can be found under Section 2, "Hazards Identification" of the SDS. Examples include:
Personnel should conduct a self-assessment to identify chemicals meeting the above criteria; summarize the frequency, duration and quantities used, location of work and engineering controls, and PPE. The EHS Chemical Safety Officer and/or Industrial Hygienists can review this information and discuss any chemical concerns that are specific to your research, in addition to performing discreet visits upon request.
Some biological agents (e.g., Toxoplasma Gondii) present increased risk to reproductive health. Consult your laboratory's Biosafety e-Manual for a list of biological agents in use in the laboratory environment. Personal health status may impact an individual's susceptibility to infection, ability to receive immunizations or prophylactic interventions. Women of child-bearing age, planning to become pregnant, or currently pregnant are encouraged to self-identify to the occupational healthcare provider, UVA WorkMed (434-243-0075), for appropriate counseling and guidance.
Many women have concerns about radiation exposure and its effects during pregnancy. For women to make informed decisions regarding their work around radiation, a clear understanding of the risk of radiation exposure during pregnancy, including risk to the fetus, is required. Understanding the magnitude of the risk and mechanisms to limit exposure are necessary in order to feel comfortable in the work environment. If a woman wishes to become pregnant while working around sources of radiation, there are precautions that can be taken. See the EHS webpage Pregnancy & Radiation Exposure for more information.
In general, the control measures shown below are relevant regardless of personal health status; however, there may be additional strategies to reduce exposure when pregnant or considering pregnancy.
Contact EHS for an assessment to help determine what actions, if any, are recommended to reduce or eliminate exposure to reproductive hazards. EHS will take every measure we can to protect your privacy, and will not disclose personal information to anyone, including supervisors, without your express permission. Completion of a declaration of pregnancy is required to obtain accommodation to limit ionizing radiation exposure. If additional work accommodations are determined necessary to protect personnel, EHS will typically need to involve an individual's supervisor. However, EHS will pursue discreet opportunities whenever possible.
You may speak with your supervisor at any time you feel comfortable doing so.
Contact your primary physician, obstetrician, and/or UVA WorkMed to discuss medical questions or concerns. While EHS cannot provide medical advice, we can provide information to medical professionals upon request.