Protective legislation, ionizing radiation and health: A new appraisal and international survey

Jeanne Mager Stellman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Restrictive regulations (“protective legislation”) on employment conditions of female workers limiting maximum hours of work and prohibiting certain toxic exposures have existed for decades. In some countries, such as the United States, Canada and the Nordic countries, the growth of civil rights and equal opportunity legislation has led to their elimination, either in fact or in practice, and only a small number of disparate regulations for male and female workers still exist. Most other industrialized countries, as well as the International Labour Office of the United Nations, still have active restrictive rules for women’s employment. However, restrictive regulation is an area of active policy debate around the world. International examples of the debate on protective legislation are given here. A specific case study of the occupational health standards governing exposure to ionizing radiation is used and its technical rationale discussed as an illustration of the basic issues. These include: Overbroad categorization of all women as potential childbearers, no matter what their childbearing intentions; failure to recognize the full range of potential adverse health effects to males; disparate application of the restrictive regulations, generally to occupations or areas of employment that are traditionally held by men, while traditional female jobs with the same exposures are excluded from the regulatory restriction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-125
Number of pages21
JournalWomen and Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - 13 Mar 1987
Externally publishedYes


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