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Pollution Is a Risk to Your Fertility

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a blog by Cindy Bailey of the Fertile Kitchen™,June 2, 2011

I periodically get asked why the number of people coping with fertility issues — estimated in 2002 to be at 7.3 million in the United States — is increasing.  Of course it’s true that more women than ever are waiting until they are older to bear children, and it’s harder to do so after age 35, and especially after 40. But the reason I often point to is: pollution.

By pollution, I mean the myriad of environmental contaminants in our air, water, soil, food and consumer products. According to the report of the Summit on Environmental Challenges to Reproductive Health and Fertility, which took place in 2007:

    "Exposures [to environmental contaminants] during critical windows of susceptibility may result in adverse effects with lifelong and even intergenerational health impacts. Effects can include impaired development and function of the reproductive tract and permanently altered gene expression, leading to metabolic and hormonal disorders, reduced fertility and fecundity, and illnesses such as testicular, prostate, uterine, and cervical cancers later in life.”

Wow, that is really scary! It’s interesting to note this report also comments on the increasing trouble wildlife is having in reproducing as well. Not just us humans! It seems to me we have a serious crisis on our hands.

I have written about pollution before and the need to do the best you can to keep your body clean by watching what you consume and eating an all-organic diet. But as a group/society, there is obviously much more to be done. According to the same report, approximately 87,000 chemical substances are registered for commercial use in the United States, and we just can’t get away from all of them — at least, not so easily.

Take the flame-retardant chemicals, Polyprominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs, which can be found in materials such as the foam in seat cushions, plastics that coat kitchen appliances and computers, and the television set. In her article on PBDEs and infertility, Dr. Jennifer Gunter explains that, “So pervasive are these chemicals in everyday life that 97 percent of Americans have detectable levels in their blood.” 

Even more frightening is research that shows the long-term negative impact of pollutants and poor diet (with too many over-processed foods), and stressful, unhealthy lifestyles have the potential to cross generations, meaning your child may be less healthy than you, and her child even less healthy.

The good news in all of this is that we can turn things around — we can make a difference in our own personal health and well-being! We can make a big difference just by doing the relative equivalent of turning off our lights and changing to less-energy light bulbs. That equivalent is watching over our diets and our exposure to chemicals — something we do have some control over.

Our bodies have a truly AMAZING capacity to heal — we just need to give them the right ingredients and environment to do so. I can’t think of better motivation for changing the way we eat: to avoid or eliminate high-mercury seafood, over-processed foods, disgusting trans fat and other unhealthy choices. Choose to eat all-organic as much as possible, especially for produce and meat, and eating more whole foods, too. It all makes a difference!

If we all ate this way, decreased our stress, limited our exposure to chemical-laden products and worked to reduce pollution in our environments, who knows? Maybe we can turn around those increasing rates of obesity and diabetes, cancers appearing at younger ages and many infertility issues.

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