Tag Archives: Chemicals

More Information About Chemicals and Fertility

Here is this week’s Health Byte from the PCOSA.

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:

  • Vinyl products, such as shower curtains and faux leather. Certain plastic food containers and cling wraps. Coatings on medications and supplements.
  • Scented products like cologne, perfume, air fresheners, laundry detergent, dryer sheets, and fabric softeners.
  • Shampoo, soap, hairspray, body spray and lotion, deodorant and other personal care items that have a fragrance.
  • Paints and furniture finishes. Non-organic foods grown with sewage sludge and pesticides

More Reasons to Avoid BPA


Are You Affected by a Hidden Cause of PCOS? Part 2

Last week we reported on how new research has produced disturbing evidence that women with PCOS are particularly vulnerable to an environmental chemical called bisphenol A (BPA). Known as an estrogenic hormone disruptor, it can’t be seen, smelt, heard or touched.


However, researchers in the UK and Greece discovered up to 50% more of the chemical in the bodies of women with PCOS than those without the condition. They linked BPA with testosterone levels and insulin resistance and concluded that BPA could be a partial cause of PCOS.


The insidious nature of BPA also appears to extend to pregnancy and beyond. In lab animals, BPA passes to the fetus from the mother. Fetuses have a severely limited capability to detoxify chemicals such as BPA, with a baby at increased risk for later problems.


For example, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill has reported that two-year-old children of mothers with higher levels of BPA had more disturbed behavior patterns. This was more pronounced in female children than males.


If rodent studies are any clue, both male and female babies will tend to be less fertile when they become adults.


For example, the University of Buenos Aires in Argentina recently completed a study of baby female rats exposed to BPA. When the female rats became adults, researchers discovered that BPA exposure was associated with increased testosterone and estrogen, and reduced progesterone. This is an unbalanced hormone pattern commonly seen in teenage girls and women who have PCOS.


In addition, the exposed female rats had much reduced fertility, with their ovaries having large numbers of ovarian cysts.


Is there anything you can do? There are two things. Reduce your exposure to BPA, and try to get rid of the BPA you already have.


You can reduce your exposure by trying to find out where it is. BPA is used in a multitude of hard plastic products such as water bottles, food containers, infant bottles and medical equipment and supplies. BPA may also be found in the lining of canned foods and in many other non-obvious products such as thermal-printed cash register receipts and some dental sealants.


Reduce your use of canned foods and eat more fresh food instead. Try to use glass containers instead of plastic for food, water and beverages. Don’t use plastic bottles to feed your baby. Use glass instead. Especially avoid heating items in a plastic containers or bags when using a microwave. Heat can release even more BPA into the food.


It may be difficult to get rid of the BPA you already have, but it’s worth trying. Your liver can detoxify BPA and send it to the intestines for elimination. However, up to one-half of women with PCOS have livers that are infiltrated with fat, thus possibly slowing down the detoxification process.


However, a healthier diet with as many natural products as possible also helps. Unfortuntely, as detoxified BPA passes down your intestines into the colon, much of the BPA is reabsorbed back into the bloodstream and goes straight back to the liver, where it just came from. This problem is made worse if you tend to be constipated.


But if you consume a diet that is high in whole foods and fiber, you improve your chances of flushing out the BPA before it can be reabsorbed into the body.

Christine DeZarn
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Association, Inc. (PCOSA)