Environmental Toxins Linked to Fertility Problems

No matter where you live, what you do for work, and how you spend your free time, you are exposed to a variety of toxic chemicals each day. These toxins appear in the air, food, water, buildings, and even in the soil, invading your body, affecting your organs and potentially causing fertility problems.

Chemicals and fertility problems
Some diseases, like PCOS and endometriosis may even stem from early toxin exposure. It's hard not to get freaked out by this news, but try not to worry. Worrying isn't good for your health, either. Truth be told, pollutants are impossible to avoid.

Join us as we explore the impact of the environment on fertility and learn how you can reduce your exposure to these toxins when trying to get pregnant.

FDA expresses concern
Does BPA sound familiar? BPA, or Bisphenol-A, has become a household name in recent years. This chemical, found in plastics, cans, and other items, could lead to fertility problems for some people.

Even the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is concerned about BPA. When reputable studies found that BPA exposure was affecting people's hormones and sexual health, the FDA took action. They now recommend that people reduce their contact with BPA whenever possible. The organization is taking steps to protect the public by removing the chemical from infant formula cans and bottles.

But will tossing plastic containers made with BPA be enough to protect your health? Sadly, it might not be. BPA is just one of many potentially dangerous toxins in our environment.

Toxic chemicals are widespread
If you use commercial cleaning products, pesticides, and plastic containers, you may be exposing yourself and your family to poisonous substances. All of these items may contain chemicals called endocrine disruptors. Scientists believe that endocrine disruptors, including BPA, prevent your hormones from functioning normally, sometimes leading to fertility problems.

Ask a doctor about chemicals and your fertility

Found in numerous plastics, food containers, household products, and pesticides, these toxins can alter your hormone levels, wreaking havoc on your endocrine system. It is best to avoid these chemicals, including:

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

According to the American Fertility Association, scientists have only studied about five percent of the chemicals currently being used in the U.S. More work needs to be done before we know how harmful these chemicals can be.

Infants and children at higher risk
All diseases have environmental and genetic causes, and some fertility problems are linked to environmental exposure. During infancy and in utero babies can be exposed to environmental toxins. Ounce for ounce, pound for pound, their bodies absorb a much higher concentration of toxins than adults, leading to later fertility problems. Toxin exposure in the womb can have major effects, like sex organ deformities, early puberty in females, and male factor infertility.

If you already have children, or become pregnant, take special care to reduce your young ones' exposure to toxic chemicals. Pregnant women must be cautious about chemicals for their own health as well. Some pollutants are linked to increased miscarriage rates.

10 ways to take action now
Environmental and health advocacy groups are encouraging the public to eliminate harmful toxins in their homes and communities. Here's how you can make a difference.

  1. Contact your member of Congress or your Senator and express your concerns.
  2. Choose glass storage containers. If you already have plastic containers, do not heat liquids or foods in them.
  3. Discard products containing BPA and look for BPA-free labels when buying new items.
  4. Turn down receipts when possible. Some receipt papers may contain BPA.
  5. Avoid buying health, home, and beauty products that contain artificial fragrances (which may be tainted by phthalates, a harmful toxin).
  6. Choose non-toxic pest control methods. Consider "green" cleaning supplies and alternatives to chemical cleaners in the home.
  7. Consider changing your diet. Reduce your consumption of fatty meats and dairy products since some chemicals appear in the fatty tissues of animals.
  8. Drink filtered water.
  9. Choose organic foods and beverages.
  10. Don't smoke.

If you think you may be exposed to dangerous toxins, talk to your doctor. Don't be surprised if he or she is not concerned. Research is ongoing in this field, and until more studies are done, this topic can be controversial. To be safe, avoid chemical exposures to reduce your risk of health and fertility problems.

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