Environmental toxins and toxicants exposures can affect human health, fertility, reproduction and development. Evidence of the negative impact of environmental toxicants on human health is on the rise. A growing body of research suggests that maternal exposure to environmental toxicants poses a risk to women’s health as well as fetal and child health and development

The prenatal and infancy periods are especially vulnerable to these potential effects during critical stages of development of the fetus and infant. In addition, certain behaviours exhibited by older infants (e.g., crawling on the floor, playing outside) put them at greater risk of exposure.

Widespread awareness of environmental toxicants and their effects on reproductive and perinatal outcomes is essential in order to decrease preconception and prenatal exposure.  Toxic substances include both toxicants and toxins. A toxicant is any chemical, of natural or synthetic origin, which is poisonous and can cause harm to a living organism, whereas a toxin is a type of toxicant that is produced by a living organism.

As environmental toxicants are identified, the associated risks of exposure should be communicated to women so they can reduce their exposure or eliminate it completely.  Reproductive health providers play a significant role in communicating environmental health risks, as they are a key, trusted source of health information for women during the preconception and prenatal periods. Women of child-bearing age and their families are encouraged to ask their primary healthcare providers for information and guidance in order to address and manage environmental exposures effectively.