Jan. 29 (Bloomberg) — Chemicals found in a wide range of household products, including non-stick pans and skin creams, may make it harder for some women to get pregnant, a new study [see below] shows.
Researchers led by Chunyuan Fei, from the University of California in Los Angeles, studied data on 1,240 women and found those with higher levels of fluorine-containing compounds in their blood took longer to conceive. The study is published in next month’s issue of the medical journal Human Reproduction.
The compounds, known as perfluorinated chemicals or PFCs, may interfere with hormones that are involved in reproduction, Fei wrote in the study. The father’s sperm quality may also be affected by the chemicals and contribute to the problem, he said.
“Animal studies have shown that these chemicals may have a variety of toxic effects on the liver, immune system and developmental and reproductive organs,” Fei said.
The researchers are the first to study the link between infertility and the presence of chemicals such as perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctane sulfonate in the blood. Fertility rates have declined in developed countries in recent decades. In the U.S., 8 percent of women of child-bearing age have had an infertility-related medical visit, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
PFCs are used to make textiles and leather resistant to water, dirt or oil. They are also found in personal care products such as nail polish, dental floss or facial moisturizer. The chemicals resist breakdown and tend to persist in the environment and in the body for decades.
3M Co., which used perfluorooctanoic acid in the fabric protector Scotchgard, funded the study and its toxicology laboratories performed the analyses. After 3M discovered the chemicals’ toxic properties in 2001, it stopped using PFOs.
Fei C, McLaughlin JK, Lipworth L, Olsen J. 2009. Maternal levels of perfluorinated chemicals and subfecundity. Human Reproduction, Vol. 1, No. 1, pp 1-6.