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NIH Study Supports Claim: Environmental Chemicals Disrupt Fertility

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USA Today,  Nov 14, 2012

November 14, 2012

Exposure to Polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, cause fertility problems says a recent study out of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

Despite the fact that PCBs have been banned from production in the US since 1979, they may still be lingering in older products around the home and in the environment. The chemicals have been found in oil-based paint, floor finish, caulking, and home insulation. It has also been detected in soil, water, body fat, and breast milk as a result of contact with products containing PCBs. The chemicals are still in production in other countries.

In the NIH study, 500 couples trying to conceive a baby within the next two months were surveyed. Those with higher levels of chemicals in their bodies got pregnant, on average, 20% later than those with lower levels of exposure. Past research has indicated that PCBs, DDT, and other environmental chemicals alter hormone production, thus impacting a couples’ ability to conceive.

There are some ways to consciously decrease exposure to PCBs. This can be done through lower consumption of animal products, particularly fatty meats, says Germain Buck Louis, an NIH investigator on this study. However, other chemicals are present in animal fat, so it is not possible to eliminate all chemical exposure, says Mount Sinai School of Medicine of New York professor, Shanna Swan.

The findings of this study are similar to one previously conducted by Louis and her team which examined lead content of in men’s blood while trying to conceive. Both of these studies will hopefully raise awareness of chemical exposure while trying to conceive. Louis acknowledges that trying to build a family is already a stressful time and informs couples that despite this evidence, 81% of the couples successfully conceived within one year of enrolling in the study.

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