November 20, 2012

In the late 1970’s I was an editorial assistant for Women & Health Journal, launched by Helen Marieskind and Ellie Engler, two leading feminist public health professors, published by the State University of New York. The journal published original research, historical accounts of leading women in health care and editorials that challenged health policy and clinical practices that were harmful to women. I remember many late night conversations about how little was known about the role of environmental exposures in the workplace and its impact on women’s health.  Was anyone taking a work history documenting daily exposures to chemicals? Did women carry these chemicals home with them on their clothes and shoes?  These questions demanded answers.

Slowly, evidence of the negative impact of environmental toxins on human health is on the rise.

A new study, published online in the journal, Environmental Health, conducted by a team of researchers from Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom, appears to strengthen the tie between female breast cancer and exposure to carcinogens and endocrine disruptors in the workplace. Women employed in the automotive plastics industry were almost five times as likely to develop breast cancer, prior to menopause, as women in the control group.

This study addresses a sex- and gender-based analysis of environmental effects on health and it also demonstrates the value of detailed work histories in every health setting.

Barbara Glickstein, co-director CHMP