You Are What You…Breath? Study Finds Pollutants May Lead to Infertility

By Emily Murray

We are, of course, effected by what we eat, drink and expose ourselves to on a daily basis but would you have ever thought about how your environment is impacting your fertility? If you haven’t, perhaps now is the time to start taking note.

A new report published in the Environmental Health Perspectives journal shows that while certain hazardous chemicals are no longer produced, their presence in products manufactured before they were banned can lower a couple’s chance of starting a family by as much as 29% if exposure occurs. The most common among these pollutants include perchlorinated biphenyls and certain pesticides according to a recent article in TIME.

So how much exposure is too much? It’s not yet entirely clear.

The National Institutes of Health Scientists set out to find how both men and women are impacted by pollutants in the environment when it comes to fertility. They collected 500 couples for their trial who had been sans contraception for either 12 months or until conception occurred (whichever was soonest). Blood tests were taken and levels of 63 organic pollutants were tested for. While the couples attempted to begin a family they journaled about their food and daily routine. When the blood was tested for these pollutants, researchers were able to conclude that for every unit increase in blood concentration of 12 of these pollutants actually decreased the odds of pregnancy between 17% and 29%.

The impact if the pollutants on men was also surprisingly high which disproves the general notion many have that if it takes awhile for a woman to get pregnant it must have something to do with her own body and her own fertility issues.

The more we know about screening for fertility issues, the faster we may be able to correct them and get back on track, at least this is the hope that researchers have when finding these results.

It’s also a reminder that even once chemicals are no longer used, their effects reach much further than many might expect. Rather than always looking internally at what might prevent couples from achieving it’s important to look beyond that into what is happening in their environment as well.