Fireproofing Can Rob You Of Your Fertility

A new study has found that the common chemicals used to make consumer items flame-retardant are responsible for causing fertility problems in women, along with many other health issues. According to a report published in the Los Angeles Times, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE's) have been used to treat plastics, carpets, fabrics, electronics, and foam furniture for forty years now to keep them safe from fire. But some consumers have voiced concern about the effects of PBDE's on general health. To this end, some states have placed a ban on the use of these chemicals and many manufacturers are now opting to forego their use, as well.

Thumbs Down

Still, PBDE's have not been taken off the market, and have now received a thumbs-down for causing infertility in women who are exposed to these chemicals. This is according to scientists from the University of California at Berkeley. This isn't the first time the chemicals have been implicated in health and reproductive concerns. The issue came to the foreground in 2008 when an association was found between PBDE's and male thyroid levels. An even more recent study found that PBDE's can cause delays in nerve development in small children.

In the current study, researchers looked at PBDE levels in the blood samples of 223 pregnant women. Most of the women were Mexican immigrants who live in a community where agriculture is the main form of employment. The women were questioned about the length of time it took them to conceive by having sexual relations without the use of contraceptives.

Those women who took the longest to become pregnant were found to be those with the highest levels of PBDE's in their blood. The researchers discovered that for every tenfold increase in the blood concentration of PBDE's, there was a concurrent 30% decrease in a woman's monthly chances of becoming pregnant. Lead author of this study, Kim Harley, an associate director of the University of California Berkeley's School of Public Health's Center for Children's Environmental Health Research, commented as follows, "It’s a pretty strong effect. They can all become pregnant, but they all had very different amounts of time it took them to become pregnant."

Detectable Amounts

Because PBDE's have been in wide use for four decades in foodstuffs and consumer products, it is estimated that 97% of all Americans have the chemicals in their blood in detectable amounts. Most people are exposed to PBDE's due to the use of items in their households that have been sprayed with these chemicals. It's important to note that while the link to infertility has been established, the study does not explain how PBDE's affect fertility.

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