Pesticides, Chemical Pollution, and Your Fertility
I’m willing to bet you didn’t ask for your food to be covered in pesticides that could cause endometriosis. I’m sure you didn’t want your shower cleaner to be chock-full of harmful chemicals that could harm your fertility.
I’m guessing you didn’t buy that plastic Tupperware thinking it could wreak havoc your reproductive system.
But that is the world you and I live in. We may not be able to change the massive problem on a global scale today, but we can eliminate it from our own lives as much as humanly possible.
Here is a rundown of what pesticides and chemical pollution in your home are doing to your fertility. Then I will tell you what you can do about it.
Let’s start with pesticides, the group of substances intended to kill insects or organisms that harm plants. Meanwhile, they can be harming you too. The connections between pesticides and a woman’s reproductive system are anything but positive.
- Women using “probable hormonally active pesticides” are 60–100% more likely to experience symptoms like missed periods and intermenstrual bleeding compared with women who had never used pesticides.
- From menstrual cycle disturbances to spontaneous abortion, women with the most exposure to pesticides seem to have a far-reaching affect on reproductive systems that affect fertility.
- But pesticides have plenty of direct issues with fertility too. They have been linked to reduced fertility, prolonged time-to-pregnancy, and endometriosis (30% to 50% of women with endometriosis experience infertility)
A New York Times’ story from a couple years ago highlighted a study of nearly 800 women and the connection between pesticides and endometriosis. Two pesticides in particular were studied: mirex and beta HCH. Though these are technically banned, they continue to pop up on fish and dairy products.
Those with the most mirex exposure “had a 50 percent increased risk for endometriosis.” And those with the most beta HCH exposure had a “30 to 70 percent increased risk.” Researchers think this could have to do with estrogen interference.
Here’s the sad truth of the chemical situation: it is hard for me to give you a concrete list of all the chemicals that could cause female infertility.
As the Mercola website shares, “Only about 5 percent of all the chemicals used in the United States have ever been tested to see how they impact the human reproductive system.”
There may be many untested chemicals potentially hurting your fertility that we simply do not know about or do not have enough research on. Of course this needs to change. But in the mean time, here are a few known chemicals you should be aware of.
The Physicians for Social Responsibility Boston chapter released a fact sheet on chemical exposure and reproductive health. They list the following four chemicals as having links to female infertility (the fact sheet also lists more chemicals that affect hormones, menstrual abnormalities, spontaneous abortion, etc.)
- Glycol Ethers: Often found in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, sunscreen, ink, dye, paint, cleaners, and adhesives
- Perchloroethylene (PCD): Often found in printing inks, adhesives, paint removers, auto cleaner, wood cleaners, shoe polish
- Lead: Often found in lipstick, perfume, and eye shadow
- PCBs: Often found in contaminated meat or dairy; also in older fluorescent lights
Here are three other common chemicals you most likely have in your home right now: phthalates, BPAs, and PFCs.
Phthalates are everywhere, especially in your personal care/beauty products (commonly labeled “fragrance”). Not only have phthalates been shown to have adverse effects on fertility in general, but they can also wreak havoc on IVF treatments. Women with the highest exposure to phthalates were two times more likely to have implantation failure.
BPA (bisphenol A) has been on the bad-chemical radar for a while. Normally found in plastics, water bottles, and canned food, BPA comes with a long list of medical issues from diabetes to heart disease. Harvard University researchers have sadly pointed to BPAs as playing a role in 20% of “unexplained infertility” issues.
PFCs are probably in your kitchen or bathroom with items like non-stick cookware, food wrap, cleaning products, shampoo and other similar products. Studies have down that the women with the most exposure to PFCs had their chances of infertility increase by 154%.
6 Ways To Minimize Your Exposure To Pesticides And Chemical Pollution
The world we live in may be engulfed in pesticides and chemical pollution, but you and I can make decisions within our own homes to eliminate exposure and improve our fertility.
1. Buy organic produce
One of the best ways to limit your exposure of pesticides is to buy organic produce. Yes, this costs more. Yes, they do not always look as “pretty” as regular fruits and veggies. But the long-term cost of a whole laundry list of health issues – including infertility – is a much larger burden than a higher grocery bill.
2. Wash your produce
If you continue to buy produce treated with pesticides, you absolutely must wash it thoroughly. Here is a great video that shows you how to wash your non-organic produce to remove pesticides:
3. Start your own garden
If you start your own backyard garden of fruits and vegetables, you gain the confidence of knowing exactly what was put on your produce – and what wasn’t: pesticides.
4. Run all your beauty and toiletry products through Skin Deep
When it comes to chemicals, many bathroom products are riddled with problematic ingredients. Enter all your favorite products in the Environmental Working Group’s website, Skin Deep database. It will show you how safe or how dangerous that product is and why you should be concerned.
5. Swap out all your cleaners for natural alternatives
Cleaners are an easy swap when you are trying to limit chemical pollution in your home. Remember: simply because a product says “natural” does not mean it is free of dangerous chemicals. Take your time to do research, or opt make your own cleaners from ingredients like vinegar and baking soda.
6. Replace plastic containers with glass options
Each time you switch out a plastic container or bowl for a glass option, you are eliminating the chance for chemicals to seep into your leftover food. They are just as easy to clean and tend to last longer too.
Infertility Help And Infertility Prevention
Understanding what pesticides and harmful chemicals are doing to your fertility is important for whether or not you are currently in the throes of infertility.
- If there is any possibility that you may want to be pregnant someday, taking the steps to lessen your exposure should start now. The less contact you have had throughout your life, the better.
- If you already have children, keep this in mind for them. Someday their fertility will play a big role in their life.
Though the predominance of pesticides and chemicals may seem overwhelming to somebody concerned about fertility, I want you to remember that you do have plenty of control over what comes into your house and what does not.