Household Chemicals Lead To Decreased Fertility

Chemical structure of PBDEs

Chemical structure of PBDEs

In a study published today, a decreased likelihood of pregnancy is linked to flame-retardant chemicals in foam furniture, electronics, fabrics and more. Californians may have higher exposures compared with residents of other states. Shari Roan reports for the Los Angeles Times:

Flame-retardant chemicals found in many household consumer products may reduce fertility in women, researchers reported today. Their study joins several other papers published in the last two years suggesting that the chemicals, polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs, affect human health.

PBDEs have been used as flame retardants for four decades and are found in foam furniture, electronics, fabrics, carpets and plastics. The chemicals are being phased out nationwide, and certain PBDEs have been banned for use in California. But they are still found in products made before 2004. Californians may have higher exposures compared with residents of other states because of the state’s strict flammability laws, according to the study authors, from UC Berkeley.

Most of the previous research on the chemicals has been in animals. But a 2008 study linked the chemicals to disrupted thyroid levels in men, and a study published this month tied PBDE exposure in pregnancy to neurodevelopmental delays in young children.

“These are association studies. You can’t show cause and effect,” said Dr. Hugh Taylor, an expert on endocrine-disrupting chemicals at Yale University who was not involved in the new study. “But we have cause-and-effect studies in animals, and we have association studies in humans. I think that is fairly convincing.”

In the study, published today in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, researchers measured PBDE levels in blood samples from 223 pregnant women. The women, who were primarily Mexican immigrants living in an agricultural community, were asked to recall how long they had been trying to become pregnant, which was defined as being sexually active without the use of birth control.

Women with the highest concentrations of the chemicals experienced a longer delay before pregnancy. Each 10-fold increase in blood concentration of PBDEs was linked to a 30% decrease in the likelihood of becoming pregnant each month…

[continues in the Los Angeles Times]

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