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Your Environment. Your Health.

Center Set Up to Evaluate Evidence of Chemical Threats to Human Reproduction

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)

News Release

Archive - New Contact Information

For more information about this archival news release, please contact Christine Flowers, Director, Office of Communications & Public Liaison at (919) 541-3665.
Wednesday, January 6, 1999, 12:00 p.m. EDT
Contact: Bill Grigg, NIEHS
(301) 402-3378

The National Toxicology Program (NTP) and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences ( today announced the establishment of an NTP Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction. The organizers said the center will bring together experts to evaluate data indicating that a chemical or mixtures of chemicals could impair human reproduction and development.

For reasons that are "largely unknown," according to the official announcement:

  • Between 5 and 10 percent of couples who want to have children cannot do so,
  • About half of all pregnancies are not successfully completed, -- NIEHS research has shown that many fertilized fetuses disappear before the prospective mother is even aware she is pregnant -
  • Some 3 to 5 percent of newborns suffer from major birth defects, and
  • "A decline in human sperm counts over recent decades has been reported but not confirmed."

The organizers said the center is not intended to conduct research or provide counseling or medical treatment but will convene panels of 10-15 scientists with expertise in reproduction, toxicology and related areas to review the information available on the effects of a chemical on reproduction and development. Panel meetings will be open to the public and will permit public comment.

Michael D. Shelby, Ph.D. (, chief of the Laboratory of Toxicology at NIEHS will direct the center's activities. Dr. Shelby said, "The center was established in response to growing public concern for the effects of environmental exposures on human fertility and the health of children."

He said, "Consistent, unbiased, scientifically sound evaluations [from the center] will provide a much needed service to the public, as well as to other government agencies and the scientific community."

The announcement in the Federal Register page 68782, vol. 63, Number 239 said that the center will review, initially, two or three chemicals or mixtures a year that are nominated by the public, scientists, industry, workers and/or government agencies.

The expert panels will prepare consensus reports on the strength of scientific evidence that an exposure poses a hazard to reproduction and the health of children. Panel reports, the Federal Register announcement said, will be written "in terms that can be understood by those who are not scientifically trained." and be published in the NIEHS' journal Environmental Health Perspectives and on a center website linked to the NTP and NIEHS websites.

Scientific and administrative support to operate the center will be provided under contract by Sciences International Inc., and nominations of chemicals and of panel members should be sent there to the attention of John Moore, DVM, 1800 Diagonal road, Suite 500, Alexandria, VA 22314-2808.

Oversight will be provided through the NTP Board of Scientific Counselors, a chartered peer review group of scientific experts primarily from outside government.

The NTP is an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services ( and serves many regulatory agencies within HHS and some outside as well. NTP is headquartered at NIEHS in Research Triangle Park, N.C. ( , and shares the same director, Kenneth Olden, Ph.D., as NIEHS, which is one of the National Institutes of Health ( .

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