Have you been trying to get pregnant, without success? You’re probably being very careful about the foods you eat. If you were smoking or drinking alchohol before, you’ve probably stopped. But you’re still not pregnant. What’s wrong?
Toxins could be making you or your partner infertile. The environment is full of toxins that affect female and male reproductive systems.
Here are some toxins to watch out for:
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Bisphenol A (BPA) is used in cans, plastic bottles and plastic containers. It behaves like estrogen and is a known hormone disruptor. Research shows that BPA exposure is linked to infertility and cancers of the breast and reproductive system.
A study of men in regions of China with high levels of BPA in workplaces showed that men with BPA in their urine had four times the risk of low sperm count than men who didn’t.
You can avoid BPA by limiting your use of canned foods and avoiding products in plastic bottles and containers. Don’t use plastic containers to microwave food. Instead of buying bottled water, purchase a good filter and drink filtered tap water.
Some store receipts are coated with BPA. If a cashier asks you if you need a receipt for a purchase, say “No” unless you absolutely have to have it.
Parabens are found in many personal care products and in some prepared foods. They are used as preservatives. Research on rats shows that parabens affect the female reproductive cycle.
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Some studies suggest that parabens could cause breast cancer.
You can avoid parabens by buying organic personal care products and avoiding processed foods. Always check the label on anything you buy.
You’ll find phthalates in products all over your house. These chemicals have many uses, including helping substances dissolve in solutions and making plastics more flexible. There are phthalates in soaps, shampoos, hair sprays, nail polish, makeup, deodorants, detergents, and plastic products such as food packaging, raincoats and shower curtains.
Phthalates are often added to products containing polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Dairy products are likely to contain phthalates because materials containing PVC, such as tubing, are frequently used in the milking process.
Tests in laboratory animals show that phthalates affect the reproductive system. They can lower sperm counts and cause sperm to be less mobile.
To lower your exposure to phthalates, avoid plastic food containers and plastic packaging. Buy organic personal care and cleaning products, or make your own. You can use olive oil or coconut oil in place of commercial moisturizer. You can use vinegar and baking soda for household cleaning and disinfecting. Reduce your intake of dairy products.
Organophosphates are used in insecticides and herbicides. They were first used as nerve gas during World War II. You can be exposed to them when gardening, or when eating non-organic produce.
Research shows that men exposed to organophosphates have low testosterone levels.
If you do any gardening, reduce your exposure to organophosphates by using organic pesticides, such as vinegar.
Avoid exposure to organophosphates in the foods you eat by buying organic produce. Fruits and vegetables certified organic by the USDA must be grown on soil without most synthetic pesticides.
Pregnant women are advised to avoid mercury-containing foods, such as shellfish, tuna and mackerel, because mercury can cause defects in the developing fetus. However, mercury can prevent you from getting pregnant in the first place. It can affect your menstrual cycle and cause problems with ovulation.
Fish contains healthy fats, so it’s important to keep eating it. Avoid fish that are high in mercury and go for less toxic fish, such as wild salmon and farmed trout.
Dioxins are a type of chemical created as by-products of industrial processes, including smelting and the bleaching of paper pulp. They are also sometimes formed during natural events, such as forest fires and volcanic eruptions.
Research shows that dioxins disrupt the endocrine system and can affect reproduction.
It’s hard to avoid dioxins completely, as they’re constantly being released into the environment. Everyone has some dioxins in their body.
Because dioxins builds up in fatty tissues, you can reduce your exposure by cutting down on or eliminating animal products from your diet. Trim fat from meat and use low-fat dairy products.
Dioxins, National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences
Dioxins and their effects on human health, World Health Organization
Dirty Dozen List of Endocrine Disruptors, Environmental Working Group
Exposure to Nonpersistent Insecticides and Male Reproductive Hormones, Epidemiology
Guide to BPA, Environmental Working Group
Human Toxome Project, Environmental Working Group
Organic 101: What the USDA Organic Label Means, USDA
Phthalates Factsheet, Centers for Disease Control
Potential estrogenic effect(s) of parabens at the prepubertal stage of a postnatal female rat model, Reproductive Toxicology
ToxTown, National Institutes of Health