Flame Retardants Connected To Infertility In Women

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Couples looking to conceive via IVF are being urged to investigate products they use on a regular basis, as new research shows that chemicals in flame retardant materials can cause infertility.

Harvard researchers recruited 211 women being evaluated for IVF to take part in the study, published in Environmental Health Perspectives journal. Two urine samples were taken from the participants for each IVF cycle and analyzed  for by-products of five flame retardant chemicals.  

Those women with the highest levels of the chemicals were 10 percent less likely to have a successful fertilization, 31% less likely to have an embryo implant in the uterus, 41% less likely to have a viable pregnancy, and 38% less likely to have a live birth.

“These findings suggest that exposure to PFRs may be one of many risk factors for lower reproductive success,” said lead study author Courtney Carignan, who carried out the research at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston. Carignan opted to use IVF couples as it allowed for researchers to be involved in each step of the pregnancy.

The chemicals known as PFRs – organophosphate flame retardants – can be found in many household items such as carpet, yoga mats, nail polish, and mostly, furniture. Couches and chairs often include them and due to how they’re made, it makes it very easy for them to enter the air.

“We all ingest a little bit of dust every day because small amounts easily stick to our hands,” Carignan added. “Couples wishing to reduce their exposure to flame retardants may benefit from washing their hands several times throughout the day, particularly before eating, as previous studies have shown that people who wash their hands more frequently have lower levels of these chemicals in their bodies.”

Infertility rates in the US are the lowest they have been for decades. According to the National Center for Health Statistics’ 2016 analysis there have been drops in infertility across all age groups.

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