Bioenvironmental: Fetal protection in the work place
By Tech. Sgt. Joseph Runewicz, 111th Medical Group
/ Published February 09, 2012
11/29/2011 - WILLOW GROVE AIR RESERVE STATION, PA -- Many physical and environmental factors can affect a woman's reproductive health and her ability to produce healthy children. Pregnant workers and those planning to become pregnant should be especially concerned about exposure to reproductive hazards.
The Air National Guard requires all pregnant members to be enrolled in the Fetal Protection Program. ANGI 40-104, Pregnancy of Air National Guard Personnel, clarifies pregnancy as a medical condition requiring an AF Form 469, duty limiting condition report. In this process, the role of Bioenvironmental is to provide an on-site workplace assessment. The purpose of this assessment is to identify any potential exposures that may adversely impact the fetus and breast milk during pregnancy and also ensure the controls that are in place are adequate to protect the employees from reproductive hazards.
While it is commonly known that the health of an unborn child can suffer if a woman fails to eat right, smokes, or drinks alcohol during pregnancy, it is often overlooked that some workplace reproductive hazards can affect a woman's health, her ability to become pregnant or the health of her unborn children. A reproductive hazard is any chemical, biological, radioactive or physical agent that has the potential to adversely affect human reproductive capabilities including mutations, embryo developmental or physical defect, miscarriage, sterility, development abnormalities or passage of carcinogens through the placenta.
Some chemicals, such as alcohol, can circulate in the mother's blood, pass through the placenta, and reach the developing fetus. Other hazardous agents can affect the overall health of the woman and reduce the delivery of nutrients, while radiation can pass directly through the mother's body to harm her eggs or the fetus itself. Additionally, some drugs and chemicals can also pass through a mother's body into the nursing baby through breast milk. Breast feeding has many positive effects on the new born child therefore a woman who may be exposed to reproductive hazards on the job should consult with her doctor or other health care provider before deciding whether or not to breast feed her child.
It is important to remember that reproductive hazards do not affect every woman or every pregnancy. Whether a woman or her baby is harmed depends on how much of the hazard they are exposed to, when they are exposed, how long they are exposed and how they are exposed. An Air National Guard member must report a confirmed pregnancy at the earliest possible time to allow her unit to accurately report operational and readiness capability, and to assess the member's work environment for potential hazards. The proper management of expectant mothers requires the cooperation of the member, personal health providers, unit medical directors, aerospace medical and public health teams and the member's supervisor.