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New Risk Factor for Infertility?

Could a woman become infertile because of her blouse? Or her couch? Or her carpet? That's what a provocative new study suggests.

The study of 1,240 Danish women published today in the journal Human Reproduction found that those with elevated blood levels of chemicals widely used in common products such as food packages, pesticides, clothing, upholstery and carpets took longer to become pregnant than women with lower levels.

The researchers caution that more research is needed to confirm the findings and it remains unclear exactly why the substances would interfere with reproduction, but study indicates that it's something that needs investigating.

The researchers studied two types of so-called perfluorinated chemicals, or PFCs -- one known as perfluorooctanoate (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS). The researchers took blood samples from the women and asked them how long it took for them to get pregnant. If it took more than 12 months or they required infertility treatment they were considered to have fertility problems. Compared with women with the lowest levels of the two chemicals in their blood, those with the highest levels were much more likely to experience fertility problems.

The findings are concerning, the researchers say, because the chemicals had long been considered to be harmless. The study was prompted, however, by recent animal studies that suggested that in fact they may have a variety of toxic effects on the liver, immune system and reproductive organs.

Because this is the first study to suggest there may be a problem, researchers stressed that additional studies are necessary to confirm and explore the findings. There's a chance, for example, that the substances could affect sperm since couples tend to be exposed to the same household products.

By Rob Stein  |  January 29, 2009; 11:30 AM ET
Categories:  Women's Health  
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A major but unstated limitation of the new study is that it does not demonstrate a cause and effect relationship. Additional research would be required to confirm that the association is observed with other populations and, if confirmed, determined the factors responsible for the association. This is important because previous studies claiming an association between PFC levels and birth weight have not been confirmed in a recent follow-up study (R. Monroy and others, Environmental Research 108:56-62, 2008), suggesting the association is not real.

John Heinze, Ph.D.
Senior Science Consultant
Fluoropolymer Products Information Council

Posted by: JohnHeinze | January 30, 2009 2:17 PM | Report abuse

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