Our desire to give special protection to working women who are of childbearing years seems especially understandable. Geneticists are now finding, though, that exposing men of child-creating years to chemical toxins might hurt the children just as much. Why? All the eggs a woman has are present and whole before birth. But to create sperm, cells have to divide 6 And it is when the cells are dividing and their borders are newly forming that they are especially vulnerable to toxins and therefore to genetic damage. A safe sperm gathers no defects.

The causes of 60 to 80 percent of birth defects are still not known; scientists have discovered approximately 30 of an estimated 900 chemicals that are toxic to human development. When we consider that it is men who are primarily exposed to toxic chemicals, we get a sense of the degree to which caring for our children’s safety also means caring for men’s safety. Elmo Zumwalt, Jr., was just the tip of the iceberg.