National Infertility Awareness Week starts Sunday, April 24th and Attain Fertility will be helping our friends at RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association bust some infertility myths!
To kick it off, our new blogger, Britt Berg, has a timely post for Earth Day.
Greetings! This is my first blog post for Attain Fertility. I write for Attain’s Research Center, with a passion for discovering the latest research and news on fertility health. Lately, I’ve been working on a series of articles about some potential threats to your fertility. I’m not talking about advanced maternal age or your genetic makeup. Nope, in honor of Earth Day, I’ve been trying to uncover the latest news about environmental toxins and their impact on your health. Join me as I bust some myths about toxins and infertility.
Myth 1: We don’t need to be worried about chemicals in our environment.
When my editor asked me to look into studies linking the chemical PCB to endometriosis, I thought I might find a few articles on the topic. Imagine my shock when I realized that multiple government agencies and fertility advocacy groups are concerned about chemicals like PCB and their effects on women’s health! Wait “ what? Have I been living under a rock?
The studies are blowing me away. PCBs were eliminated from manufacturing in 1979, but they are still found in our food supply, including dairy products, seafood, and fish oil supplements. Chlorine bleach, the go-to cleaner for neat freaks everywhere, could be harmful to your lungs if not used properly. Indoor chlorinated pools are even being linked to an increased risk of allergies later in life. Plastics are also getting a bad rap, thanks to the discovery of BPA-related health problems. Thus, some groups are recommending caution when using and microwaving plastics. The list goes on.
Ignorance may have been bliss. After reading study after study, and report after report, on how some chemicals might be hurting my health, I started to worry a little bit. Am I constantly touching, eating, drinking, and breathing poison? I went through my kitchen and started realizing that many of my favorite (and so-called health) foods come in the very same packaging that these government agencies were expressing caution about. I opened the cabinet under the sink and realized that most of my cleaning products probably contain chemicals that I should be avoiding. As I examined my home for potential sources of toxins, I asked myself, in an attempt to live an organized, clean, and efficient life, have I unwittingly jeopardized my health? I talked to my doctor, who was not worried. She, calmly, and devoid of emotion, told me that manufacturers have been phasing BPA out of products for some time now. Still, I was troubled by what I was learning.
Myth 2: Some chemicals might be worrisome, but they won’t affect my ability to get pregnant.
Brain and behavior problems
Early puberty in girls
Low sperm counts and poor sperm mobility
One chemical in particular has been troublesome. Exposure to PCB (Polychlorinated biphenyl) is associated with lower rates of IVF success and higher rates of endometriosis. Thank goodness this chemical was banned in the 70s, although it still exists in our environment. BPA (Bisphenol A) is another one to watch for, found in canned foods, water bottles, infant products, and more.
Myth busted. It seems like some everyday chemicals could affect your fertility. So what’s a woman to do? I discussed the research findings with my husband, a critical and skeptical scientist himself. As always, he said, “I’ll believe it when the research says it’s true.” After several weeks of covering this topic, I am pretty shocked that we don’t hear more about the dangers of chemicals all around us. I think the research is clearly pointing in the direction that many chemical-based products need to be studied, regulated, and possibly phased out. In our modern lives, chemical exposure is unavoidable (ahem, receipt paper and the linings of canned foods). Still, I pledged to myself to just be more mindful about the plastics I use and the cleaning products I buy.
Myth 3: The government takes steps to protect us from harmful chemicals.
Thus far, the United States has been pretty lax in regards to regulating and studying chemicals. Some groups claim that only 5 percent of the chemicals in the U.S. have been investigated as potential reproductive health threats. Thankfully, there is some good news. Last week, on April 14, Congress passed the Safe Chemicals Act, that might make our nation a bit healthier. Corporations will be required to study and test chemicals for health risks before distributing them into the population. Our health, and our offspring’s health, should be better off for it.
Is there a bright side? Well, chemicals certainly haven’t doomed the human race. After all, our lifespan is increasing, and some plastics and chemicals are even helping doctors save lives. After processing all of this for a few days, I decided to take the following steps to protect my health:
Discard old plastic containers, which may or may not contain BPA.
Purchase ceramic and glass food storage containers.
Be more careful about what I put in the microwave.
Buy “green” cleaners, especially for items used on food and drink surfaces, including dish detergent and dishwasher detergent.
Buy more organic fresh foods.
Share this information with others.
Hopefully, these small steps will help. If this topic interests you, I encourage you to visit the Attain Fertility Research Center to learn more about how specific chemicals might affect your fertility. You can learn about BPA, PCB, and other chemicals, and how they might affect your fertility.
Blowing lots of baby dust your way!!!
Britt Berg holds a Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology and is co-author of Making a Baby (Random House, 2010), a book on infertility. She works as a freelance health and medical writer on the sunny beaches of south Florida.