New Study Links Infertility to Flame Retardants in Furniture and Carpet

November 13, 2017
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A new study conducted by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health suggests that the more toxic chemicals a woman is exposed to, the lower chances of conception and a healthy pregnancy she will have.

These chemicals were specifically those found in flame retardants. Levels of these chemicals found in urine samples of women who were undergoing in-vitro fertilization (IVF) to become pregnant showed some surprising results.

Higher traces of flame retardants meant a lower chance of egg fertilization, a healthy pregnancy, and live birth. Compared to women who had lower levels of these compounds in their body, this research suggests mothers should be a little more conscious of what’s in their home.

This is the first such human study to find this link although a number of chemicals used in carpets, couches, mattresses, and more have long been suspected to cause harm to reproductive health.

Results from the Study

Harvard’s study measured amounts of organophosphate flame retardants, otherwise abbreviated as PFRs, in the urine of women who were trying to conceive using IVF. Five different PFR chemicals were tested for and measured in the women.

The research found that the chances of conceiving and having a healthy pregnancy were diminished for those who had elevated levels of the chemicals in their urine, meaning that women would have less of a chance to get pregnant at every stage from fertilization to live birth.

Infertility has also been linked to other chemicals such as those used in pesticides in addition to other products. These chemicals are used in furniture and can easily become airborne. Through disrupting the endocrine system—the system in the body that regulates hormones—toxic chemicals can impact fertility in both men and women.

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Additional Research about Flame Retardants

There is other research that suggests these chemicals harm reproductive health and embryo development although human trials are certainly lacking.

Unfortunately, these chemicals are just about everywhere. They can get into the air, they pollute the earth during the manufacturing process, and they’re even in your electronics.

Brominated flame retardants have been found to increase the risk of spontaneous abortion—otherwise known as a miscarriage—in women who have been exposed to the chemicals. This research calls for additional studies on the subject.

These flame retardants also have the potential to be carcinogenic. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggests that brominated flame retardants (BFR) are possibly carcinogenic. Fortunately, these chemicals haven’t been manufactured in the United States since 2004, but people are still exposed through former items made with these compounds.

Children are at huge risk for other, legal flame retardants that are used because they are in contact with chemicals around the clock. Although some flame retardants continue to be used, most of them have been shown to not be safe and to have negative effects on children both in utero and post birth.

Other Chemicals That Can Influence Embryo Health

Flame retardants aren’t the only chemicals that have negative effects on a growing baby. Toxins are all around us—from new car interiors to the fragrance in your candles, all of these chemicals can impact embryo health.

Perfume, air sprays, and even nail salons can expose people to these harmful chemicals. You don’t necessarily need to have a can of paint or bleach, to be exposed. Your favorite perfume could be enough, as the term “fragrance” actually consists of thousands of toxic chemicals.

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There are many things that can influence infertility and flame retardants are just one chemical exposure that negatively affects a woman’s chances of conceiving. It can take years for older flame retardants to leave the body!

What You Can Do

Limiting your exposure to flame retardants, especially if you’re pregnant or trying to conceive, is crucial.

When it comes to furniture, choose leather, wool, or cotton rather than polyurethane-stuffed couches or synthetic fibers.

Invest in an organic mattress that doesn’t use flame retardants or mattress pads that don’t use flame retardants for your infant. For flooring, hardwood is best or natural carpet without chemicals (such as Earthweave) can help create a healthier home.

Yes, these are big purchases and they are more expensive, but they may be worth it. Washing hands before eating can also help cut down on your exposure from ingestion!

Healthcare screenings can help prevent chronic disease, but you can help yourself by choosing not to invest in or purchase these things.

Are you aware of the use of flame retardants in your household items? Consider just how many of your items are toxic. You can invest in a healthier home by choosing natural fibers and fillings rather than synthetic ones.

When it comes to fertility, minimizing toxins in your home could just help create a healthier reproductive system according to this preliminary research.