Are Chemicals Messing with Your Fertility?
Infertility can be devastating for any couple trying to have a baby. Roughly 10% of couples in the U.S. are affected by the condition.
PCOS plays a major role in the heartache. But a growing body of evidence suggests that all manner of chemicals in our environment are interfering with both men’s and women’s ability to have a child. Most of the chemicals implicated are known as hormone disruptors. They act like sex hormones and can interfere with bodily levels of estrogen and testosterone.
These chemicals are used to make nonstick pans, pesticides and other common household goods. The latest culprit is phthalates, which are found in plastics, synthetic fragrances and building materials.
For a new study published in the journal Toxicology Letters, Italian researchers zeroed in on the most common phthalate, DEHP – used in plastics to keep them soft and flexible. The research team also looked at the second most common, called DEP, which prevents fragrances fading from personal care products as well as scented candles, laundry detergents and the like. In addition, two other phthalates, DBP (which keeps nail polishes and paints pliable) and BBzP (a phthalate used in vinyl floor tiles), were also tested.
The authors measured urine samples from 56 couples who were seeking fertility treatments and an equal number of couples who had successfully had children. Both the men and the women in the couples seeking fertility treatments had higher levels of phthalates in their urine than the couples with children.
A number of previous studies have linked phthalates to infertility in men and women separately. But this is the first study of its kind showing that the combined levels in both men and women could be to blame. In women, phthalates can trigger endometriosis, a condition common in women who can’t get pregnant. In men, phthalates lower testosterone levels, which impairs sperm quality.
Phthalates are ubiquitous in the environment so they can be difficult to avoid. But steering clear of as many as possible may improve the chances of becoming pregnant. Other sources include:
Here is this week’s Health Byte from the PCOSA.