Could Endocrine Disruptors Like BPA Be Disrupting Your Fertility?

Could Endocrine Disruptors Like BPA Be Disrupting Your Fertility? Could Endocrine Disruptors Like BPA Be Disrupting Your Fertility?

Have you heard the news? If you've been following the headlines over the last few years, you may have heard about a chemical called Bisphenol-A, or BPA. This chemical has the potential to alter your hormone levels, which could lead to infertility. But BPA is just one of many dangerous environmental toxins to watch for. Read on to learn more about how chemicals called endocrine disruptors might affect your health and cause fertility problems.

Could I be exposed to endocrine disruptors?
You may be surprised to know that these toxins exist all around us. Endocrine disruptors, also known as environmental hormones, are chemicals that appear in the soil, the food supply, the air we breathe, and the water we drink. Indeed, they are everywhere. Here is a list of endocrine disruptors found around the globe:

  • BPA
  • DDT
  • DES
  • Dioxin
  • PCB
  • Phthalates
  • Phytoestrogens

How endocrine disruptors affect fertility
Endocrine disruptors target your endocrine system, which is made up of a number of hormones and related glands, including your ovaries. Ideally, your hormones and glands work together to keep your reproductive system and other body processes in top health. But when endocrine disruptors invade your body, they begin to mimic and alter your hormone levels. Estrogens (female sex hormones), androgens (male sex hormones), and thyroid hormones are all at risk. When these hormones are altered, health and fertility problems might occur. 

Research is ongoing
Scientists are currently studying how and why these chemicals cause health problems. Some of the research is controversial. For example, some scientific studies show that phytoestrogens (plant estrogens found in soy products and other familiar foods) are harmful to your health. Other researchers have found more positive effects from phytoestrogens, and recommend their consumption. Less controversial, however, are studies showing negative health effects from DES, DDT, and PCB. These chemicals have since been banned in the U.S. Research is still ongoing, but studies link endocrine disruptors to the following illnesses and fertility problems:

  • Autoimmune, immune, and neurodegenerative diseases
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Early menopause and early puberty in girls
  • Endometriosis
  • Female infertility
  • Increased miscarriage and preterm birth rates
  • Menstrual cycle irregularities
  • Problems with male sex organ development, male fertility, and the prostate
  • Obesity

Overall, it may be wise to limit your exposure to these chemicals, especially if you are trying to get pregnant.

Know your risks

When it comes to endocrine disruptors, adults are not the only ones in harm's way. Infants and babies in utero can be affected too, sometimes even more strongly than adults. If you are trying to conceive, or become pregnant, limit your exposure to items containing endocrine disruptors. Even low levels of these toxins might be problematic. There is so much that we still don't know, but officials are starting to take note. Even the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is taking action to reduce the public's contact with BPA, a common endocrine disruptor.

Reduce your exposure
To reduce your exposure to endocrine disruptors, be careful with any chemicals you use around the house, especially pesticides. Choose the following items carefully, and go with chemical-free, natural alternatives whenever possible.

  • Cleaning products
  • Medications and beauty products
  • Pesticides
  • Plastic containers and plastic bottles
  • Linings of metal food cans
  • Toys for infants and children

In coming years, we should know much more about how these chemicals affect human health and fertility. Until then, be smart, and stay up-to-date on the latest about endocrine disruptors and infertility.

Reviewed May 2011 by Dr. Kristen Wright from Reproductive Science Center of New England.

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