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7 Environmental Toxins That Can Affect Fertility

Various toxins in the environment can affect both male and female fertility

Environmental toxins and endocrine disruptors that can affect fertilityIn recent years, concerns about the impact of environmental toxins on human health have grown significantly. While the effects of these toxins on various aspects of our well-being are widely studied, one area that is of particular concern is fertility. Environmental toxins can potentially disrupt endocrine and hormonal balance in men and women, impair reproductive health, and hinder the ability to conceive.

What are endocrine disrupting chemicals?

Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are environmental toxins and substances in the environment, usually man-made, that mimic, block or interfere with hormones in the body’s endocrine system. The endocrine system oversees and orchestrates nearly every bodily function from conception until death. Growth, reproduction, metabolism, and organ function are just a handful of the many critical functions executed by the endocrine system.

Problems arise when EDCs in our environment interfere with the signaling of the endocrine system, thereby throwing the normal functioning of the hormone (endocrine) system out of whack. Continuous exposure to EDCs, even at low levels, can disrupt the intricate workings of our body’s endocrine system. 

Listen to The Fertility Answers Podcast Episode 7: The Environment and Fertility for more information on environmental toxins and endocrine disruptors that can interfere with getting pregnant.

Products that contain EDCs are, unfortunately, all around us. Hormone-disrupting chemicals can be found in many everyday products, such as cosmetics, food and beverage packaging, toys, carpet, and even clothing. Traces of these chemicals can often be found in the urine and blood. Research has shown that these chemicals have the potential to mimic estrogen and interfere with the body’s hormone levels. at least in laboratory (non-human) studies. 

Seven common environmental toxins and their potential effects on fertility

  • BPA (Bisphenol A): Bisphenol A, commonly known as BPA, is a chemical found in many plastic products, including food containers, water bottles, and paper receipts. BPA has been linked to decreased sperm quality and motility, menstrual cycle disruptions, and increased risk of miscarriage. To reduce BPA exposure, opt for glass or stainless-steel containers, avoid microwaving plastic, and choose BPA-free products when possible.
  • Phthalates: Phthalates are chemicals used in the production of plastics, personal care products, and fragrances. Research suggests that phthalate exposure may be associated with decreased sperm quality, impaired ovarian function, and increased risk of infertility. Minimize exposure by using natural personal care products, avoiding plastic wraps and containers, and opting for fragrance-free options.
  • Pesticides: Pesticides containing toxic chemicals are widely used in agriculture to control pests and increase crop yield. Pesticide exposure has been linked to reduced fertility, increased risk of miscarriage, and hormonal disruptions. Choose organic produce whenever possible, wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly, and consider supporting local farmers who follow sustainable and pesticide-free practices.
  • Air Pollution: Air pollution in the form of fine particulate matter and toxic gases released from vehicle emissions, industrial processes, and burning fossil fuels can lead to decreased sperm quality, disrupted menstrual cycles, and increased risk of infertility. To minimize exposure, limit outdoor activities during high pollution days, use air purifiers indoors, and contribute to sustainable transportation alternatives.
  • Heavy Metals: Heavy metals such as lead, mercury, and cadmium can accumulate in the body over time and negatively impact reproductive health. Lead exposure, for example, has been associated with reduced fertility in both men and women. Be mindful of potential sources of heavy metal exposure, such as old pipes, certain fish species, and cosmetic products, and take steps to minimize their intake.
  • Flame Retardants: The chemicals found in common flame retardants are used to make clothing or upholstery fire-resistant and may also be found in electronics, nail polish, yoga mats and car seats. These chemicals often migrate out of their products over time where they may contaminate household dust and food. Check labels when purchasing furniture and clothing, and avoid products made with polyurethane foam. Dust your home and work surroundings and wash your hands often.
  • Parabens: Parabens are one of the most talked about endocrine disruptors commonly found in cosmetics, shampoos, conditioners, lotion, and even face cleansers. To avoid parabens, check labels and avoid products with ingredients ending in -paraben, even so-called “natural” products. Also avoid paraben substitutes like methylisothiazolinone and methylchloroisothiazolinone.

Awareness can reduce your exposure to environmental toxins

Protecting our fertility and reproductive health is crucial for building a sustainable future. While it is impossible to completely avoid all environmental toxins, being aware of potential risks and taking proactive measures to reduce exposure can significantly mitigate their impact. By making informed choices, advocating for stricter environmental regulations, and supporting sustainable practices, we can safeguard our fertility and contribute to a healthier environment for generations to come. Remember, every step counts in protecting our reproductive health and preserving the well-being of our planet.

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