This paper first reviews the scientific problems involved in assessing the effects on reproductive health of toxic substances in the work environment. It then describes the current status of regulatory policies designed to control workers' exposures to toxins believed to affect reproduction. Finally, the paper discusses the relationship between scientific uncertainty and regulatory strategies.
Because demonstrating reproductive health effects is extremely difficult, the assessment of the health risks of exposures, as well as of the economic costs of regulation, is probabilistic. Therefore, uncertainty is inherent in any regulatory decision in this area. And the case of reproductive risks is illustrative of the more general problem of protecting the health of workers within a context of scientific uncertainty, and within a highly charged political environment characterized by anti-regulatory sentiment and industries in economic decline.