Reproductive toxins are chemicals that can produce adverse effects in parents and
developing embryos. Chemicals including heavy metals, some aromatic solvents (benzene, toluene, xylenes, etc.), and some therapeutic drugs are capable of causing these effects. In addition, the adverse reproductive potential of ionizing radiation and certain lifestyle factors, including excessive alcohol consumption, cigarette smoking, and the use of illicit drugs, are recognized.
While some factors are known to affect human reproduction, knowledge in this field (especially related to the male) is not as broadly developed as other areas of toxicology. In addition, the developing embryo is most vulnerable during the time before the mother knows she is pregnant. Therefore, it is prudent for all persons with reproductive potential to minimize chemical exposure.
Sensitizers may cause little or no reaction upon first exposure. Repeated exposures may result in severe allergic reactions.
Examples of sensitizers include the following:
- Nickel salts
- Beryllium compounds
Irritants cause reversible inflammation or irritation to the eyes, respiratory tract, skin, and mucous membranes. Irritants cause inflammation through long-term exposure or high concentration exposure. For the purpose of this section, irritants do not include corrosives.
Examples of irritants include the following:
- Sulfur dioxide
- Poison ivy