A. What Is A Reproductive Toxin?
Reproductive toxins, one of OSHA's three categories of Particularly Hazardous Substances, are substances that affect reproductive capability and include four general categories.
- Mutagens - substances that may cause a change (mutation) in the genetic material of a cell.
- Teratogens - substances that may affect the viability or cause physical or metabolic defects in the developing embryo or fetus when a pregnant female is exposed to that substance.
- Sterility/Infertility - substances that may affect female or male fertility.
- Lactation - substances that may be transferred from the mother to the child through the breast milk and cause adverse health effects in the child.
Reproductive toxins include physical agents (e.g. radiation), biological agents (e.g. viruses), maternal metabolic imbalances, and chemical agents. This section will focus on chemical reproductive toxins.
There are numerous references on reproductive toxicology but, unfortunately, no scientific or government agency has established a definitive method for classifying potential human chemical reproductive toxins as they have done for carcinogens. It is, therefore, impossible to give an exhaustive list of all chemicals that should be considered reproductive toxins. The list in Appendix V(j)-A are examples of chemicals known or suspected to be human reproductive toxins. The list does not take into account the chemical form, concentration, toxicity, or length of exposure.
A large number of chemicals have been reported to be animal reproductive toxins in various species, but since there is no established method for defining when animal evidence is sufficient to relate to human reproductive toxicity potential, it cannot be meaningfully organized here. Container labels and Material Safety Data Sheets should be consulted for the manufacturer's assessment of animal reproductive toxicity, and precautions should be taken to minimize exposure
As there is no definitive list of human reproductive toxins, they will be defined here as a chemical which meets one of the following criteria:
- It is listed in Appendix V(j)-A as an "Example of Known or Suspected Human Reproductive Toxins".
- The container label or Material Safety Data Sheet reports positive findings of human reproductive toxicity.
- The faculty member has knowledge that the chemical is a human reproductive toxin.
B. Employee/Student Notification
The supervising faculty member is responsible for informing all employees and students that the chemical they are working with is considered a human reproductive toxin.
C. Personal Protective Equipment
Protective Clothing. Laboratory coats must be worn when greater than 1 liter or 100 grams of a human reproductive toxin that is readily absorbed through the skin, as indicated by an “s” on the list (see Chapter V(b)). Laboratory coats used for this purpose must not be worn outside of the laboratory. Contaminated clothing must be removed immediately and disposed of or laundered separately from street clothing.
If hand contact is possible, gloves appropriate for the task and with resistance to the reproductive toxin involved must be worn. Disposable gloves must be discarded after every use and immediately after overt contact with a human reproductive toxin. Nondisposable gloves must designated for use only with human reproductive toxins and must be decontaminated after every use.
Eye Protection. Appropriate eye protection must be worn as described in Section V(b).
D. Personal Hygiene
Hands must be washed with soap and water immediately after overt contact, at the completion of any procedure, and prior to leaving the laboratory. If other parts of the body are contaminated they must be immediately washed or flushed, in the case of eye contamination, described in Chapter III.
E. Work Area Identification And Access
Each work area or laboratory where human reproductive toxins are being used on a regular basis must be labeled with a sign with the following warning.
CAUTION — POTENTIAL REPRODUCTIVE TOXIN IN USE
When work areas have not been decontaminated or experiments involving human reproduction toxins are left in progress, a DO NOT ENTER sign listing the name and phone number of the person to be contacted in case of emergency must be posted on the exterior door.
F. Handling And Storage Procedures
Work Surfaces. All work surfaces on which human reproductive toxins are used should be smooth and nonporous or covered with stainless steel or plastic trays. The work surface or trays should be decontaminated after the procedure is complete.
Containment Equipment. Procedures using volatile human reproductive toxins and those involving solid or liquid human reproductive toxins that may result in the generation of aerosols or airborne particles should be conducted in a fume hood, glove box or other containment device. Examples of aerosol generation procedures include: transfer operations, blending, open vessel centrifugation, and injection.
Vacuum Lines. Vacuum lines, other than water aspirators, should be protected (e.g., with an absorbent or liquid trap and a HEPA filter) to prevent entry of any human reproductive toxin into the system.
Decontamination. Equipment and contaminated materials should be decontaminated by procedures that deactivate the human reproductive toxin if such procedures are available. Decontamination of the work area must be done whenever there has been overt contamination and at the end of each experiment. Ideally, the work area would be decontaminated daily. If a work area is not decontaminated prior to leaving for the day a DO NOT ENTER sign must be posted as described in Section F above.
Container Labeling. Containers in which a human reproductive toxin are stored must be labeled with, at a minimum, the chemical name and a warning indicating it is a reproductive toxin, or alternately, a particularly hazardous substance. In lieu of labeling containers, entire storage areas may be labeled.
G. Waste Disposal
Waste Minimization. One goal of experimental design should be the minimization of waste produced. Using the least amount of the reproductive toxin possible and limiting the use of disposable equipment are effective methods.
Deactivation. When possible wastes should be deactivated to form non-toxic degradation products. Deactivation procedures for some human reproductive toxins which are also carcinogens are described in the following publications and others may be available from the manufacturer.
Castegnaro, M., Sansone, E.B., 1986. Chemical Carcinogens, Some Guidelines for Handling and Disposal in the Laboratory. Springer-Verlag, New York.
Armour, M., et al., 1986. Potentially Carcinogenic Chemicals, Information and Disposal Guide. University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Collection for Off-Site Disposal. If deactivation methods are not available or the deactivation product remains hazardous (e.g., flammable) all contaminated materials must be collected for off-site incineration. The procedures outlined in Chapter XI(a) for Hazardous Waste Disposal should be followed.