About Fertility

Pollution and Toxins Affect Fertility

Pollution and Toxins Affect Fertility

Exposure to environmental pollutants for those trying to conceive can adversely affect the ability to become pregnant and overall fertility. Here we talk about how pollution and toxins affect fertility.

Air Pollution and Miscarriage

There are several health-related issues have been linked to air pollution. A recent study published in Nature Sustainability examined the relationship between maternal air pollution exposure and pregnancy outcomes. This study included over 255,000 women in Beijing, China, which has well-documented pollution and air quality issues. Their findings demonstrated a clear correlation between air pollution and first-trimester miscarriage.

Additional studies using zip codes in populated areas have started to examine air pollution rates and reported miscarriage rates. These studies look at health outcomes (pregnancy and loss) as they relate to tangible exposure (concentration of nitrogen dioxide in ppb {parts per billion}). What are the implications?  Initial studies would suggest that increasing pollutant exposure does, in fact, affect embryo development at the critical “on/off” stage of implantation. It would be expected that higher miscarriage rates would be seen in more polluted areas, inclusive of congested urban areas.

Radiation and Pregnancy

The reproductive system of both males and females is sensitive to radiation, causing temporary or permanent sterility, although a conventional Chest X-ray or even a CT scan of the abdomen and pelvis is not sufficient to cause harm except potentially during early pregnancy. Ionizing radiation, though controversial, may also affect reproduction as flight attendants and airline pilots have been reported to have a higher incidence of early miscarriage. Risks are most likely dose and duration dependent as isolated air travel does not increase the risk for reproductive problems. Similarly, there is no evidence that exposure to electrical and magnetic fields is associated with adverse reproductive outcomes.

Effects of Pesticides on Fertility

Prolonged exposure to pesticides, heavy metals, and organic solvents has been associated with sterility and pregnancy loss. Sperm counts are lower in men who have prolonged exposure to pesticides. Lower implantation rates have also been reported in women whose partners worked in occupations with high levels of organic solvents. Welders have been found to have lower sperm counts, presumably due to heavy metal toxicity caused by lead and mercury.

Hormone-Disrupting Phthalates and Fertility

Other chemicals, such as phthalates, have also been linked to infertility. Phthalates are substances added to plastics to increase their flexibility, transparency, durability, and longevity. They are used to soften polyvinyl chloride and are responsible for that ‘new car’ smell. Phthalates may be found in glues, cosmetics, certain shampoos, and other personal care products such as colognes, perfumes, deodorants, and hand lotions. How do phthalates affect your fertility? These chemicals may affect hormone production and have been associated with birth defects, low sperm counts, and DNA damage in sperm. To reduce exposure to phthalates, choose food containing plastic bottles with the recycling codes 1,2, or 5, as recycling codes 3 and 7 are more likely to contain phthalates and Bisophenol-A (BPA), another compound that may adversely affect fertility.

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Our physicians are experts in diagnosing fertility problems and guiding our patients through the process with care and expertise. If you have more questions on how pollution and toxins affect fertility, please contact us. We are here to help. 

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