Legacy chemicals can hinder women from getting pregnant
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Legacy chemicals can hinder women from getting pregnant

A recent study shows that the presence of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in women’s blood can lead to increased infertility. Especially affected are women over 29 years old.

As more and more women postpone child-bearing until they are in their thirties, the already declining fertility rate combined with the negative health effects of POPs create a double-whammy for women’s chances of getting pregnant.

Although many POPs are strictly regulated in Europe and have been so for nearly 20 years under the Stockholm Convention, they still exist in the environment due to their high resistance to degradation.

The presence of these legacy chemicals is a global health concern as multiple studies of both human and wildlife populations link them to negative effects on hormone functions and the reproductive system.

“This shows just how urgent it is to regulate the highly persistent chemicals that are still allowed”

The aforementioned research study investigated this link by comparing POP levels in the blood of 818 pregnant women with the number of months it took for them to get pregnant. Legacy chemicals were detected in a majority of the women tested, and the results show that higher levels of POPs in the blood lead to lower chances of getting pregnant and increased infertility in women over 29 years old.

“This shows just how urgent it is to regulate the highly persistent chemicals that are still allowed and, unfortunately, widely used in society. As long as ‘forever chemicals’ are used, levels will build up in both the environment and ourselves until, as this study shows, the negative effects become obvious”, comments Dr. Anna Lennquist, Senior Toxicologist at ChemSec.

“Levels will build up in the environment and ourselves until negative effects become obvious”

Women’s fertility is not the only one affected by exposure to harmful chemicals. A couple of years ago, the scientific journal Human Reproduction Update reported that men’s sperm counts have more than halved in the last 40 years and linked the decline to exposure to man-made toxic chemicals.

Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)

Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) such as organochlorine pesticides (OCPs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and fluorinated and perfluorinated compounds (PFAS) are organic substances that travel long distances in the atmosphere and take forever to break down in nature.

They are also bioaccumulative, meaning they build up in fatty tissues with increasing concentration towards the top of the food chain – where, for example, humans are found.

These chemicals are widely used in agriculture, consumer products, and industrial products. They are also unintentionally released as by-products from industrial processes and incineration. Exposure occurs through ingestion, inhalation, and absorption.