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Can Common Household Products Affect Your Fertility?

a blog by Suzanne Rico, August 2, 2012

I never blamed my shampoo for the fact that I couldn’t get pregnant. Nor did I think my perfume might be the sweet smelling culprit, or the sunscreen I should have started using at 15 instead of 30. And while I did somehow intuit that the nasty smell of nail polish fumes would not have the same health benefits as, say, a pristine pine forest, I liked my toe-and-fingernails Ballet Slipper pink, so I didn’t worry about it.

Maybe I should have. Earlier this year, The European Environment Agency (the equivalent to America’s Environmental Protection Agency) warned against using cosmetics and medicines that contain endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), saying they “may be a contributing factor behind the significant increases in cancers, diabetes and obesity, falling fertility and an increased number of neurological development problems in both humans and animals.” Yikes!

This is not exactly new information. Certain chemicals have been proven to disrupt the hormone system for years. A 2009 study done by researchers at UCLA, suggests that even food packaging, clothing and the upholstery on your couch might make it harder to get pregnant. I know, I know — you'll never sit down or put on that little black dress without worrying again. Sorry.

This all reminds me of when I was a teenager and one of my friends told me that blow drying your hair could kill you. I forget exactly HOW it could kill you, but with the driving desire of my preteen life being to look like Farrah Fawcett, a blow dryer was key to molding my frizzy hair into soft waves. So I ignored this news and so far I’m still standing.

But I do wonder whether microwaving food for years in plastic containers made with BPA (bisphenol A — a chemical that Canada declared to be a toxic substance in 2010) or two decades of wearing dry-cleaned business suits might just have warped my reproductive system a little bit. This is not a silly concern, as some experts have linked the rise in infertility over the past 10 years to the rise in the use of environmental chemicals. So I asked Daniel Dumesic, M.D., head of the UCLA Fertility and Reproductive Health Center, to offer some advice on those oh-so-practical (but perhaps not oh-so-healthy) products.

“The most important thing is to identify where the risks are in the real world," says Dr. Dumesic. "There are a lot of chemicals in everyday products — and we're not sure how most of them affect us. But we do know that Bisphenol A is linked to reproductive disorders. So put your efforts here. Avoid foods that come in plastic containers, drink water out of metal containers, and read labels to make sure you are not exposing yourself to BPA. And then, you have to live your life and not get too upset about it.”

Dr. Dumesic is right. Thankfully, I'm several years past the infertility struggle, but if I had to do it all over again, I would not be paranoid. I might, however, have used a bit more common sense.

Follow Suzanne Rico on Twitter @suzannerico, Pinterest (Suzanne Rico), — or friend her on Facebook!


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