Infertility – Keeping yourself safe from environmental hazards.
Fertility, both male and female can be adversely affected by various toxins present in our environment. Although any one substance might not cause a problem by itself, it is the accumulation of the various chemicals and pollutants which combine to produce a potentially toxic cocktail which can have devastating consequences.
Here are some of the more common hazards you should avoid if you having fertility problems or even if you are just starting to plan for a baby.
Part 2 – Environmental Hazards
You’ve probably heard the term ‘Xenoestrogens’, but what are they and why could they affect fertility.
These are chemicals which have an oestrogen like effect on both humans and wildlife. I’m sure you’ve read the accounts of the effect of xenoestrogens on fish reproduction and how some fish have been found to be growing both male and female sex organs.
Xenoestrogens, are found in products we use every day such as pesticides and plastics. Over the last 50 years or so the amount of these chemicals finding their way into our environment has increased massively.
This huge increase in xenoestrogens has coincided with
- Earlier onset of puberty – at one time this used to be about 15 years of age for girls, now it is more like 11 or even younger.
- A decrease in sperm counts of 50 % over the last 10 years
- A large rise in the incidence of infertility
- Increasing numbers of baby boys with undescended testes
- Large increase in the incidence of diseases related to hormone imbalance
Oestrogen, like every hormone naturally produced by the body, is a vital chemical messenger that transports a signal from one cell to another. But when these oestrogen mimicking pollutants are added in to the mix, our finely balanced endocrine systems can be easily disrupted. They are also fat soluble and so are often stored in fat cells, especially those around the breast and uterus.
The types of chemicals that affect hormone balance, women’s cycles and hence fertility include:
Dioxins and PCB (polychlorinated biphenyl) – used in plasticisers, fire retardants and adhesives. This was banned in the 1970s but there are still large amounts present in our environment and in our food chains.
Bisphenol-A (BPA) – found in packaging such as that for soft drinks, and bottled water, and food containers like babies bottles and plastic tubs. It makes plastics hard and clear. The more these products are washed the more BPA is released.
Phthlates – these are also used in water bottles, plastic toys, and many personal care products such as deodorants, perfumes, hairspray, nail varnish, hair gel etc. They also appear in insect repellants, flooring products and car products. One of the worst and most ubiquitous is DEHP, a plastic-softening phthalate, which is found in cling film, and medical equipment (breathing, feeding and intravenous tubes)
Perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) are a family of fluorine-containing chemicals with unique properties to make materials stain- and stick-resistant. Manufacturers have developed a host of chemicals in this family to repel oil and water from clothing, carpeting, furniture, and food packaging such as pizza boxes and fast-food containers. (think Teflon and Scotchguard). Fire-fighting foams have used them, as have cleaners, paints, roof treatments, and hardwood floor protectants.
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) – PAHs occur in coal, gas and wood and are produced as by-products of fuel burning . PAHs are also found in cooked foods such as meat cooked at high temperatures such as grilling or barbecuing, and in smoked fish.
Synthetic drugs especially contraceptive pills, HRT and similar have found their way into our water supplies due to their high use amongst the population.
Many fruit and vegetable crops are still sprayed with organophophates for their insecticide and herbicide properties. Fungicides are commonly used. There are several thousand brands of insecticide, herbicide and fungicide approved for use in the UK. Supermarket produce is often treated to prolong shelf life.
Solvents – such as those used in shoe factories, dry cleaners, the metal industry or agriculture.
So What To Do
- Avoid using cling-film, or at least use the PVC free versions that are now available.
- Avoid food and drink from plastic containers, especially fatty foods
- Do not heat food in plastic especially in a microwave oven.
- Store food in stainless steel or glass containers where possible.
- Use glass bottles for water.
- Do not use non-stick cookware or utensils. Go for stainless steel pans and cookware. For cooking utensils use wood, bamboo, coconut shell or stainless steel.
- Avoid high amounts of Barbecue cooked foods and smoked foods
- Find a pure source of water – fit a water filter such as a reverse-osmosis filter, or as a minimum use a jug filter.
- Consume organically produced food whenever possible. If you do buy non-organic fruit and vegetables then try and wash with a special product which removes farm chemicals and waxes.
- Only use high quality personal care products and cosmetics.
- Wear clothes made from natural fibres which are untreated with chemicals.
- Don’t have clothes which require dry cleaning
- When buying furniture or new floor covering avoid those which come with stain resistant finishes
But overall just be more aware. For the sake of your health and fertility think carefully before buying, eating or using any product which could contain endocrine disrupting chemicals.