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Household chemicals may delay pregnancy, study shows

Ailsa Taylor

Progress Educational Trust

04 February 2009

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[BioNews, London]

Perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) - found in everyday household materials such as shampoo, food wrappings, non-stick frying pans and upholstery - may be linked to infertility, according to a study published in the Journal of Human Reproduction this week. The study showed that women with high levels of the chemical in their blood were up to one and a half times more likely to have taken more than a year to conceive or required fertility treatment than those with low levels. 

The researchers measured the levels of two chemicals - perfluorooctanoate (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) - in the blood of 1240 Danish women who became pregnant between 1996 and 2002. Those with PFOS blood levels exceeding 26 nanograms/millilitre were at least 70 per cent more likely to be infertile, and those with more than 3.9 ng/ml of PLOA in their blood were at least 60 per cent more likely to take longer to get pregnant.

Dr Chunyuan Fei, from the University of California, who co-authored the study, said that findings from previous studies on humans had alerted him to the potential impact of PFOA and PFOS on fetal development.

'Very few human studies have been done, but one of our earlier studies showed that PFOA, although not PFOS, may impair the growth of babies in the womb, and another two epidemiological studies linked PFOA and PFOS to impaired fetal growth', he told the Daily Telegraph.

Animal studies have also raised concerns, said Fei, with high levels of PFCs proving toxic to the liver, immune system and developmental and reproductive organs.

Previous studies highlighting the toxicity of PFCs have triggered their phasing out in Europe and the US, however further research will be needed to establish whether the link to infertility is genuine or whether other factors are at play, for example obesity may provide a link between high PFC levels in the blood and low fertility.

Speaking to the Times, David Coggon, Professor of Occupational and Environmental Medicine at the University of Southampton, commented: 'This is an interesting preliminary finding that may or may not turn out to be important. We first need to see whether it can be confirmed in other studies. It would also be helpful to establish the main determinants of exposure to the chemicals in the general population'.

© Copyright Progress Educational Trust

Reproduced with permission from BioNews, an email and online sources of news, information and comment on assisted reproduction and genetics.

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Date Added: 04 February 2009   Date Updated: 04 February 2009
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