Some widely used chemicals, which even have applications in cosmetics, increase women’s chances of infertility by disrupting reproductive hormones.
Strong chemicals that were once used in various fields can have a significant impact on women’s fertility around the world. These substances are called “Forever Chemicals” and used to be used to produce cosmetics, waterproofing, food containers, fire foam, and many other products.
A recent study conducted by researchers at the Icahn Medical School in Mont Sinai, United States, confirms the connection between plasma concentrations of perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and pregnancy hardening. The recent study was conducted on a group of Singaporean women, and despite the nature of this relationship is not determined, adds to the concern of researchers about Forever Chemicals. According to researchers, these substances can silently expose our health to serious risks in the near future.
Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances such as PFAS are synthetic compounds that have had widespread uses in the production of various consumer products since the mid-20th century. These substances act like barriers against water penetration or oil-based substances, and are usually used as non-stick and resistant coatings.
One of the most important advantages of these substances is their strong carbon-fluoride bond, which makes them highly resistant to degradation. This property allows them to remain in the environment for many years and at increasing concentrations. With the existence of thousands of different types of these substances, there is a possibility of various toxins being hidden among them, and this possibility is a very important issue that cannot be easily overlooked.
‘Damascene Valovi’, a mount Sinai epidemiologist and senior study author, says: ‘PFAS can disrupt our reproductive hormones. Previous studies have also confirmed the relationship between this substance and late puberty, increased risk of endometriosis, and polycystic ovarian syndrome. What our study adds to previous studies is that PFAS may also reduce the likelihood of pregnancy in healthy women who are trying to conceive.’
Valovi and his team reviewed data from more than 1000 Singaporean volunteers. The gathering of this data was to examine the long-term outcomes of maternal and child regarding women who were planning to conceive and began before their pregnancy. Each of the participants attended three pre-pregnancy sessions; then after one year, their pregnancy status was reviewed and followed up by researchers through several telephone contacts.
According to ScienceAlert, during the study, a sub-study was also conducted to examine the levels of various PFAS types in plasma collected from 382 participants. The aim of this study was to compare the obtained results with the existing criteria on the time required for pregnancy, the likelihood of pregnancy, and the likelihood of live birth after attempting it.
The research team found that the chance of pregnancy in women who were exposed to more than 25 percent of PFAS was 5 to 10 percent lower than that of women whose exposure to PFAS was lower than 25 percent. This reduction in fertility also occurred in the upper quartile. Eventually, it was revealed that the chance of pregnancy or childbirth in women who were exposed to a mixture of PFAS, on average, had a 30 to 40 percent decrease one year after follow-up.
The reason for this event is still in a haze of ambiguity, but researchers speculate that PFAS disrupts the natural functioning of reproductive hormones. The very important fact that should be taken into account about this recent study is that volunteers had to remember and report details about their pregnancy, which may have led to bias in the results.
Given that the results obtained include a larger population, it has led to a significant difference and increases the concern of anxious couples. ‘Nathan Cohen’, an environmental medical researcher and the main author of the article, says: ‘Our study shows that women who intend to become pregnant should be aware of the dangers of PFAS and take the necessary precautions to prevent exposure to this category of chemicals.’
Given the sharp decline in fertility in many parts of the world, which is a warning for reversing the trend of population growth in the future, the use of an effective research method to discover the potential causes of this event is essential. It is not yet certain that PFAS is the only factor causing such a decline; however, this substance may be one of the factors that we can combat and take preventive measures.
Researchers are currently looking for ways to accelerate the degradation of these resistant substances. At the same time, measures are being taken to restrict the use of these substances, which can make us hopeful for the end of the use of chemicals and their health effects.