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Health & Environment
Pollution and exposure to chemicals: devastating effects on women’s health

From October 14 to 19, more than 9,000 specialists from all over the world will be in Brazil (Rio de Janeiro), to discuss specifically women’s health, their reproductive, sexual, mental rights and social empowerment.

The venue of the discussions will be the XXII World Congress of FIGO 2018. Obstetricians and gynecologists from the 130 national affiliated societies of the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics, along with midwives, nurses, general practitioners and other specialists working in the field of women’s health and policy and decision makers, NGOs, WHO and UN, will make an extensive analysis of medical topics, quality of life and related issues, such as the devastating effects of pollution and exposure to chemicals on women’s health and their children.

In the last 40 years, there has been a global increase in human exposure to a variety of potentially toxic chemicals in the environment.

Research shows that whether we are concerned with reproductive health, cancer, infertility, neonatal and childhood health or neurodevelopment; toxic exposures are implicated.

World leaders have acknowledged that minimising environmental threats to human health and reproduction is a necessity if we are to substantially reduce the number of deaths and illnesses from hazardous chemicals and air, water and soil pollution and contamination, and therefore progress towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDGs).

“We are at the very beginning of a tsunami that will require local leadership:  California has placed a priority on energy independence which can improve air quality and reduce birth defects, prematurity, asthma and heart disease.  The European Union has limited exposure to endocrine disruptors.  China instituted a host of measures in 2013, so that by 2018 there has been a reduction of air particulate matter by 32%. They declared a war on pollution and are winning!”   Jeanne Conry, MD, PhD, Co-Chair, FIGO Working Group on Reproductive and Developmental Environmental Health, USA

91% of the world’s population lives in places where air quality exceeds WHO guideline limits. Air pollution is a major environmental risk to health. By reducing air pollution levels, countries can reduce the burden of disease from stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and both chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma. The lower the levels of air pollution, the better the cardiovascular and respiratory health of the population will be, both long- and short-term.

“Our first challenge is awareness:  Many clinicians are not aware that environmental exposures impact human health.  Most of us assume that the chemicals released into the environment, that we are exposed to as we apply make-up, prepare food, or breathe air, have been studied.  They have not.  It is important to show human links, there are a host of animal-supported studies, but being able to show human impacts is critical.  It is the most difficult challenge, because we need extensive data bases and time”.  Jeanne Conry, MD, PhD, Co-Chair, FIGO Working Group on Reproductive and Developmental Environmental Health, USA

Next month, October 14 – 19, over 9,000 health professionals are attending FIGO World Congress 2018 in Rio de Janiero. Environmental Health is a core theme throughout the event, with key sessions being covered include:

  • Impact of Environmental Toxics on Global Women’s Health
  • Environmental Reproductive Health and the Heath Care Provider: Evidence based approaches to providing advice
  • Research agenda to illuminate how the environment affects reproductive and developmental health
  • “Training the Trainers” to talk with their patients and the public about environmental impacts on health

“Our challenge is priorities:  When we are faced with maternal mortality, cancer, and violence, it may seem we do not have the “band width” or capacity to discuss the environment as well. BUT we need to ensure clinicians are equipped to discuss this subject and lead their patients in awareness, and that advocacy for change is essential”. Jeanne Conry, MD, PhD, Co-Chair, FIGO Working Group on Reproductive and Developmental Environmental Health, USA

 About FIGO World Congress 2018, Rio de Janeiro

 Next month over 9,000 health professionals; obstetricians and gynaecologists from FIGO’s 130 national member societies alongside midwives, nurses, general practitioners and other specialists working in the field of women’s health and policy and decision makers, NGOs, WHO and UN organisations will gather together in Rio for FIGO World Congress 2018.

FIGO World Congress will facilitate vital discussions around this important area including a panel session from sector experts entitled ‘Contraception: the key to achieving SDGs by 2030’, the African Federation Obstetrics and Gynecology (AFOG) presenting on ‘Sexual and Reproductive health care services in Africa: the past, the present and the future’, WHO presenting on ‘Improving quality of care for maternal and newborn health – measuring women’s experiences’ and Guttmacher Institute presenting on ‘Accelerating progress: Sexual and reproductive health and rights for all’.

 About FIGO

 FIGO is a professional organisation that brings together obstetrical and gynecological associations from all over the world.

FIGO’s vision is that women of the world achieve the highest possible standards of physical, mental, reproductive and sexual health and wellbeing throughout their lives, we lead on global programme activities, with a particular focus on sub-Saharan Africa and South East Asia.

FIGO advocates on a global stage, especially in relation to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) pertaining to reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health and non-communicable diseases (SDG3). We also work to raise the status of women and enable their active participation to achieve their reproductive and sexual rights, including addressing FGM and gender based violence (SDG5).

We also provide education and training for our Member Societies and build capacities of those from low-resource countries through strengthening leadership, good practice and promotion of policy dialogues.

We are in official relations with the World Health Organization (WHO) and a consultative status with the United Nations (UN).

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