February 22, 2024

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Household Chemical Exposure Linked to Pregnancy Difficulty

Household Chemical Exposure Linked to Pregnancy Difficulty

Household Chemical Exposure Linked to Pregnancy Difficulty

Research Finds that Exposure to Phthalates in Household Chemicals May Increase Difficulty in Getting Pregnant.

A new study has linked pre-pregnancy exposure to phthalates with women’s reproductive health.

The research identifies how phthalates reduce the chances of pregnancy, disrupt crucial reproductive hormones, and lead to inflammation and oxidative stress, adding new evidence to the growing body of knowledge on the negative impacts of these chemicals.

Phthalates are a group of synthetic chemicals commonly used as solvents, plasticizers, and stabilizers in personal care products such as soap, shower gel, perfume, nail polish, shampoo, hair spray, and styling products. They are also present in other household items like vinyl flooring, plastic packaging, garden hoses, and toys.

Household Chemical Exposure Linked to Pregnancy Difficulty

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people can be exposed to phthalates by consuming food and beverages that have come into contact with them, and some individuals may inhale phthalates in the air. Research indicates that exposure to certain types of phthalates can disrupt the endocrine system, increase inflammation, and cause oxidative stress.

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst conducted a new study exploring the relationship between pre-pregnancy exposure to phthalates and the likelihood of women getting pregnant and maintaining pregnancy, as well as the impact of phthalates on inflammation and oxidative stress.

“Phthalates are ubiquitous endocrine disruptors that we encounter every day,” said the study’s lead author, Carrie Nobles.

The researchers analyzed data from the Effects of Aspirin on Gestation and Reproduction (EAGeR) study, which tracked 1,288 women over six menstrual cycles while attempting to conceive and throughout their pregnancies. The participants had an average age of 28, and the data were adjusted for age, body mass index, race/ethnicity, smoking, and parity (the number of times a woman has given birth with pregnancies lasting 24 weeks or more).

Nobles explained, “We were able to study environmental exposures like phthalates and how they relate to time to pregnancy. We had detailed data on each menstrual cycle, so we could pinpoint ovulation and time to pregnancy very well.”

Metabolites are excreted in urine as the body breaks down phthalates. The researchers analyzed 20 phthalate metabolites and reproductive hormones in participants’ urine samples, as well as levels of the inflammatory biomarker C-reactive protein (CRP) in the blood.

Overall, higher concentrations of certain phthalate metabolites in preconception urine were associated with a reduced probability of getting pregnant within one menstrual cycle (fecundability), including metabolites of di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), dibutyl phthalate (DBP), and benzylbutyl phthalate (BzBP). There was no apparent association between phthalate metabolites and the risk of pregnancy loss.

Nobles stated, “We found there were three parentcompounds that seem to be moststrongly associated with taking longer toget pregnant, although we saw ageneral trend toward it taking longer toget pregnant across the phthalates welooked at.”

DEHP is found in polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic products such as toys, vinyl indoor furnishings, shower curtains, adhesives, and some food packaging, as well as pesticides and cosmetics. DBP is present in hair spray, nail polish, some perfumes, and other household products. BzBP is found in some handbags, belts, and shoes, and also in some personal care products.

Throughout the menstrual cycle, higher levels of certain phthalate metabolites were associated with lower estradiol levels and consistently higher levels of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). Estradiol is a steroid hormone that regulates the menstrual cycle, while FSH and LH work together to regulate ovulation. These hormones play crucial roles in early pregnancy.

Nobles explained, “This scenario—maintaining low levels of estradiol while maintaining high levels of FSH—is actually what we see in women with diminished ovarian function, a situation that can occur with age and other factors. Ovulation is no longer as smooth as it used to be.”

The researchers also found that women with higher levels of phthalate exposure had higher levels of inflammation and oxidative stress, which could potentially damage cells and DNA, leading to diseases. They noted that the pervasive nature of phthalates makes it challenging for women to control their exposure, even if they take preventive measures such as checking product labels and selecting phthalate-free products.

The researchers stated, “Women may be exposed to these maternal compounds (DEHP, DBP, and BzBP) through multiple pathways, including dust in homes and other household items, absorption from personal care products (including nail polish and fragrances), dietary exposure from food packaging and food source contamination, and ingestion of contaminated drinking water.”

This study was published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

Household Chemical Exposure Linked to Pregnancy Difficulty



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