The Epidemiological Identification of Reproductive Hazards

  • Michael E. McDowall


Epidemiology has so far had limited success in the identification of occupational hazards, be they carcinogenic or teratogenic. Epidemiological methods have of course been vital in the follow-up of clues, but the greater majority of the clues have been provided by the perception of clinicians or pathologists, aided frequently by coincidence1,2. The range of potentially dangerous substances encountered in the occupational environment3,4 is so great that it is difficult to see how reliance on this haphazard approach to health and safety at work will show up more than a few of the dangers. Mortality data have been routinely analysed by occupation since the 1850s5, but recent years have seen repeated calls for a systematic approach to the search for occupational carcinogens in particular26. The study of reproductive hazards of occupation has a less extensive history than that of occupational mortality but the same argument can apply. An unsystematic approach to the search for such hazards is likely to be too dependent on luck for revealing all but the grossest effects. We need, therefore, to consider the possibilities for detecting hitherto unsuspected risks due to occupational exposures in a routine and systematic manner.


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© The Royal Society of Medicine 1984

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  • Michael E. McDowall

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