Common Household Products May Cause Infertility, Pregnancy Delay

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Everyday cleaning products could make it hard to get pregnant.
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Women who experience delays in getting pregnant, infertility problems, or irregular menses may be experiencing the effects of a substance found in commonly used household products.

According to new research, perfluorooctanoate (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), known as PFC's can enter the bloodstream and lead to infertility, and pregnancy delays in women. PFA's are found in pesticides, carpets, clothing, packaging for food, and personal care products.

The research, published online in the European journal Human Reproduction, analyzed blood levels of PFC's in 1240 women, finding that higher levels of PFC's in the bloodstream lead to difficulty in getting pregnant. The researchers measured PFC blood levels of the women and conducted interviews to find the effect of common household products on infertility.

Chemicals in the bloodstream linked to higher infertility

The scientists measured PFOS and PFOA in the bloodstream of women who were between 4-14 weeks pregnant. They also asked the women whether the pregnancies were planned, and how long it took them to become pregnant. The definition of infertility used for the study was longer than twelve months to pregnancy, or the need for infertility treatment to conceive.

The results showed that women with higher levels of PFOS/PFOA in their bloodstream experienced a 70-134 percent increase in the likelihood of infertility, and those with the highest levels had a 60-154 percent increase of infertility, compared to women with the lowest level of exposure to common household products containing PFC's.

The researchers say women exposed to PFC's in household products also report irregular menstruation, leading to suspicion that exposure to toxins in household products may affect hormonal balance.

According to UCLA researcher and first author of the study, Chunyuan Fei, "Perfluorooctanoate and perfluorooctane sulfonate were considered to be biologically inactive, but recently animal studies have shown that these chemicals may have a variety of toxic effects on the liver, immune system and developmental and reproductive organs."

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Jørn Olsen, chair of the Department of Epidemiology at UCLA's School of Public Health, led the study, saying, "We are waiting for further studies to replicate our findings in order to discover whether the chemicals should be added to the list of risk factors for infertility."

Toxic chemicals could affect men's sperm quality too

The findings that common household products may lead to infertility could also have an impact on men who share the same lifestyle as their partners. Studies on the effect of PFC's on sperm quality are also warranted, say the UCLA researchers.

PFC's are chemicals widely used in household products. The effects in the body and on the environment can last for decades.

Olsen says, "As far as we know, this is the first study to assess the associations between PFOA and PFOS levels in plasma with time to pregnancy in humans."

This is not the first study that shows personal care products and common household products and food additives have a negative impact on reproductive and overall health. Researchers have discovered that inorganic phosphates in foods fuel lung cancer.

A study published in the December 2008 issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, designed to raise awareness, also showed that exposure to pollutants in the home may accumulate and pose genuine health risks for women.

The evidence seems to be piling up - there are many health risks from exposure to manufacturing chemicals, processed foods, household cleaners, pesticides and a myriad of personal care products that millions use daily.

The study shows that PFC's, found in common household products, might cause infertility in women and potentially affect sperm quality in men.

Updated January 22, 2014

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