Friday, November 04, 2011

The link between environmental chemicals and infertility

Millions of couples in the U.S. are infertile
or dealing with infertility, statistics show.
Researchers are trying to understand the many reasons why infertility rates are rising in North America and other developed nations.

Every year in the United States, approximately 6 million women deal with infertility and around 2 million married couples are infertile.

The causes include hormonal imbalances, defects of the uterus, misshapen sperm, low sperm count and low sperm motility, for example.

And new research has just added another potential cause to the list: endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the environment.

Studies have found higher blood levels of pollutants such as bisphenol A (BPA), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and hexachlorobenzene (HCB), which can interfere with a woman’s ability to get pregnant and reduce fertility.

Chemicals mimic hormones

More than 1,200 chemicals belong to the category of endocrine disruptors, meaning they can mimic or block hormones, including estrogen, the primary female sex hormone involved in pregnancy.

The researchers warn that even low levels of chemicals such as PCBs affect the success rates of assisted reproductive technologies such as in-vitro fertilization (IVF).

PCBs and HCB are long-lived pollutants that take decades to break down. That is why even though they have been banned for 25 years or more, exposure in the general U.S. population is still widespread.

Most people are exposed through food, since the chemicals are often found in hard plastic beverage containers, food can linings and traces of pesticides.

To reduce exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals, experts advise to:
  • Avoid canned foods
  • Not use disposable water bottles
  • Buy BPA-free plastics
  • Avoid animal and fish fats that are high in PCBs
Source: Environmental Health News

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