Exposure To Flame Retardants May Negatively Affect Female Fertility

young couple

Women with high urine concentrations of a commonly used flame retardant had a lower likelihood of pregnancy and live birth than women with lower concentrations, according to Harvard researchers.

The study is the first to investigate an association between organophosphate flame retardants (PFRs), and female reproductive outcomes. The polyurethane foam used in many products, such as upholstered furniture, gym mats, and baby items contain PFRs.

“These findings suggest that exposure to PFRs may be one of many risk factors for lower reproductive success,” said Courtney Carignan, a research fellow in the Department of Environmental Health at Harvard Chan School. “They also add to the body of evidence indicating a need to reduce the use of these flame retardants and identify safer alternatives.”

More than ten years ago, the flame retardant called PentaBDE was phased out of use after being associated with health problems in animals. Though PFRs were subsequently introduced as a safer alternative, animal studies have indicated PFRs are hormone disrupters that can negatively affect fertility. Earlier research determined that PFRs can migrate out of furniture, or other items and mingle with the air and dust of indoor environments.

For the Harvard study, urine samples from 211 women undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF) were analyzed. The analysis considered factors such as participant age, race, body mass index, and smoking history.

The data showed that 80 percent of participants had substances in their urine from the breakdown of three PFRs (TCDIPP, TPHP, and mono-ITP). The women with higher concentrations of these substances had a 10 percent reduced chance for successful fertilization, a 31 percent reduced chance of embryo implantation, and had a 41 and 38 percent decrease in confirmed pregnancy, and live birth.

“Couples undergoing IVF and trying to improve their chances of success by reducing their exposure to environmental chemicals may want to opt for products that are flame-retardant free,” said researcher Russ Hauser, Frederick Lee Hisaw professor of reproductive physiology and acting chair, Department of Environmental Health.

Future studies will look at the effect of PFRs on male fertility, and on the combined effects of couples exposed to environmental chemicals.

Source: Science Daily


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