Women and chemicals – the impact of hazardous chemicals on women

This report aims to summarize existing information and initiatives on the topic of women and chemicals. This report is a thought starter and was informed by and developed subsequent to an expert workshop held at UNEP’s offices in Geneva in 2014 and organised by WECF International. The workshop brought together leading global experts on chemicals and health. It was decided to  focus on the particular impacts from exposure to hazardous chemicals, taking into account biological and socio-economic aspects of women’s lives.

This report on women and chemicals does not claim to present an exhaustive overview of all available data and information. Instead it aims to give an overview of the topic from different perspectives, on health effects, exposures and policies. It illustrates how the topic of women and chemicals is currently covered in science and in activities of international organizations, governments, and civil society.

During the preparation of the study it became clear how little attention this topic receives, compared to other areas, for example studies on the impacts on women’s lives related to climate change or water management, which are much better documented. There are almost no comprehensive studies and summaries currently available on the topic of women and chemicals, although an increasingly large body of evidence points to severe, irreversible and long term health effects of specific hazardous chemicals on women’s health, especially the health of pregnant women and the foetus. There is a lack of recognition by policy makers and translation into concrete protection measures, legislation and norms.