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Planned Parenthood: Green Choices and Your Reproductive Health

Vanessa Cullins, Planned Parenthood

By Dr. Vanessa Cullins
Vice President for Medical Affairs
Planned Parenthood Federation of America

“Going Green” means more than recycling your bottles and riding your bike to work. Here at Planned Parenthood, we understand that our environment and our bodies are inextricably connected. When our environments are polluted, so are our bodies. When we wash our hair with shampoos that contain endocrine disruptors (PDF), eat fruit coated in pesticides (PDF), or scrub our countertops with toxic cleaning products (PDF), we could be compromising our health and our family’s health.

That’s why Planned Parenthood established Green Choices, a project whose goal is to provide our patients with the knowledge they need to reduce their exposure to harmful chemicals in their everyday lives. With the help of environmental health organizations from around the country, we have developed a series of online learning modules called Green Choices for staff who work at Planned Parenthood health centers.

The Green Choices learning modules demonstrate:

  • the link between environmental toxins and adverse reproductive outcomes
  • how to assess a patient’s risk of being exposed to harmful chemicals
  • how to educate patients about simple changes they can make to live and work in a healthier environment

The modules focus on eight specific topics — you can click on the links to learn more about each one: lead, pesticides (PDF), cleaning products (PDF), plastics (PDF), personal care products/cosmetics (PDF), fruit and vegetables (PDF), fish (PDF), and tobacco smoke (PDF). For each of these areas, we have created assessment tools to identify where a patient might encounter toxic chemicals. We can then offer our patients suggestions for reducing their exposure to these chemicals.

If a client indicates she microwaves her food in plastic containers, for example, we can provide her with informational resources on plastics that explain how chemicals found in plastic containers can absorb into our food, and then into our bodies. A simple solution is to instead store and microwave food in glass containers.

Beyond educating patients at our health centers, Planned Parenthood is an advocate for commonsense policies that will make us all healthier. Planned Parenthood is part of the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families Campaign that is working to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976, which currently does not require chemicals used in consumer products to be tested for safety. Planned Parenthood is also part of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics that is working to enact the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010 which gives the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authority to ensure that personal care products are free of harmful ingredients. Planned Parenthood is also part of the Green Choices Alliance — a group of reproductive and environmental health organizations and academic institutions that works together to promote environmentally safe practices and policies.

So the next time you go to your Planned Parenthood for a checkup, don’t forget to ask how you can make green choices to help protect your reproductive health.