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Researchers Trace Toxins' Links to Reproductive Health

The Bay Citizen,  Nov 18, 2010
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When Molly Gray had trouble conceiving several years ago, she decided to make some lifestyle changes. Gray, a naturopath and midwife who lives in Seattle, bought foods grown without pesticides, did not heat up food in plastic, and avoided canned products. When she became pregnant with her first child, she signed up for a tri-state health study to measure the levels of chemicals in her body.

The study found 13 chemicals in her body, including mercury, phthalates, bisphenol A, and “Teflon chemicals.” Gray had mercury levels that were higher than the national average. The experience showed her just how widespread are the chemicals, and how difficult it is for personal actions to solve the problem.

“I was living as clean as I could be, but I still couldn’t protect my baby,” she said, during a conference call on Thursday to highlight the connection between chemical exposure and reproductive health. The call was organized by the group Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, a coalition of 250 environmental, public health and green businesses pushing for national policies to make chemicals safer.

Gray’s story about her difficulty getting pregnant is becoming more common.

During the call, health specialists from the University of California, San Francisco highlighted a number of reproductive health trends, in which they believe chemicals are playing a role.

“Hormones affect human development and some environmental chemicals act like hormones,” Linda Giudice, UCSF’s chair of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences, who treats thousands of patients for infertility. “Science has exploded with data on the effect of endocrine disrupting hormones exposure in utero. The trends in reproductive health are concerning.”

Giudice says she’s seeing more women have trouble conceiving and maintaining their pregnancy, and it’s not just because they are waiting until they are older to have children. Citing the National Center for Health Statistics, she said the percentage of women under the age of 25 reporting difficulty conceiving doubled from 4.3 to 8.3 percent from 1982 to 2002. Sperm counts have decreased 50 percent in the last 50 years.

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