Endocrine Disruptors, Heavy Metals and Solvents: The Chemicals In Your Environment Matter.
Its hard to imagine that little chemical compounds that make up the “stuff” we fill our lives with can have an impact on whether or not you are able to successfully bear children- especially because you can’t actually see or feel the direct effect. But believe it, girl. This is not just some hippie dippy talk about plastics and organics. Study after study has shown that environmental chemicals alter reproduction processes.
How do they do it? Well lets take a little walk back to 10th grade chemistry class. Actually lets not… (insert grimace emoji !). You probably learned enough to know that hormones attach to cells like little puzzle pieces using what are called receptors. If a hormone and the cellular receptor fit, its a match, and a bind occurs.
Well some environmental chemicals are so structurally similar to reproductive hormones that they fit the puzzle piece, thereby blocking the cell from binding with your body’s hormones, altering the pathway of normal cellular processes. Environmental chemicals disrupt differentiation, mitosis, meiosis, programmed cell death, migration, intracellular communication, DNA repair, or mitochondrial function.
Below I’ve laid our which chemicals may be influencing your reproductive success.
-These chemicals are used in the manufacturing of plastic wraps, beverage containers, medical supplies, automotive parts, and the linings of metal cans.In rodents, phthalates cause spontaneous abortions, induce birth defects, prolong the estrous cycle, suppress or delay ovulation and reduce the size of the preovulatory follicles.
-Introduced in the United States in 1945
-Widely used to reduce mosquito population in response to a rise in Malaria
-Banned in the US in 1972 when it affected adversely reproduction in wildlife species.
-Although DDT has been banned for 25 years, it continues to pose a health hazard because sufficient levels persist in the environment.
-A synthetic estrogen which also acts as an endocrine disruptor.
-From 1950 to 1971, it was used in an attempt to prevent miscarriages and pregnancy complications in women.
-In 1971, DES use was banned when it was noted that women exposed to DES in utero were at risk of developing clear-cell adenocarcinoma of the vagina.
-In addition, several studies have linked DES exposure with menstrual irregularities, infertility, breast cancer, ectopic pregnancies, altered uterine structure, miscarriages, and premature births.
-Diethylstilbestrol exposure also results in latent abnormalities. Children exposed to DES in utero are born without evidence of reproductive abnormalities; however, by the time the children reach puberty or adulthood, there is evidence of vaginal carcinomas and reproductive dysfunction.
Phytoestrogens (Soy, legumes)
-These chemicals are naturally present in plants, soy products, legumes, and grains -In rats, high phytoestrogen exposure results in persistent estrus, altered pituitary hormone levels, and precocious puberty. It also alters uterine growth, inhibits ovulation, blocks implantation, and induces oocyte degeneration.
-In sheep, phytoestrogens have been linked to abnormalities in cyclicity and infertility (29).
We are exposed to heavy metals like lead, mercury, cadmium, and manganese every day in the water, food, soil and air we breathe.
-Remarkably, it was found that 52% of residential homes contain unacceptable levels of lead in paint. In rodents, lead suppresses FSH, affects gonadotropin-receptor binding in the ovary, and alters steroid metabolism.
-In women, lead has been linked to an increased risk of spontaneous abortion, miscarriage, intrauterine fetal death, or preterm delivery
-Organic mercury is used as a fungicide in paints and during some industrial processes: has been linked to an increased risk of spontaneous abortion and birth defects such as microcephaly, cerebral palsy, and mental retardation
-Elemental mercury is used in dental amalgam fillings, thermometers, batteries, gold mining, and as a catalyst in the production of some chlorine-containing chemicals: has been linked to an increased risk of spontaneous abortion, menstrual irregularities, and severe menstrual cramps
-Inorganic mercury is used in electrical equipment, fungicides, antiseptics, and several illicit brands of skin-lightening cream.
-All three forms of mercury are thought to affect adversely human health.
-Humans are exposed to cadmium via welding, soldering, painting, mining, ceramics, fish consumption, and cigarette smoking.
-In rodents it decreases production of hCG and inhibits placental transfer of oxygen and nutrients to the fetus
-Humans and wildlife are exposed to manganese through food sources such as grains, cloves, and teas. In addition, humans may be exposed to manganese through gasoline products because of an organomanganese gasoline additive recently approved for use in the United States.
-Although low levels of manganese are required for normal development, high levels of manganese may interfere with some reproductive processes
-In rats, manganese reduces the number of ovarian follicles and causes persistent corpora lutea.
-In one Australian population, manganese exposure was associated with a higher than expected number of stillbirths and clubfoot.
Solvents are chemicals used in electronics, health care products, dry cleaning, auto repair, laboratories, varnish strippers, glues, and paints. Perchloroethylene, toluene, xylene, and styrene all have been linked to adverse reproductive outcomes in laboratory animals and humans.
-Exposure increased the risk of infertility and spontaneous abortion in women.
-Exposure reduces fetal weight, delays skeletal development in laboratory animals and may increase the risk of spontaneous abortion in women.
-Increases the number of fetal resorptions, delays fetal development, reduces birth weight, lowers serum progesterone and estrogen levels, blocks cyclicity, and prevents ovulation in rodents . It also increases the risk of spontaneous abortion and induces caudal regression in humans.
-Lengthens the estrous cycle and induces embryonic death in rats and may interfere with menstrual cyclicity in women
Although more studies are needed on pesticide exposure and its like to infertility be linked, one can’t help but wonder its impact. The pesticide manufacture lobby is strong and money to support further studies is well guarded.
-One animal study indicates that organophosphate pesticides inhibit the growth of ovarian follicles, induce premature ovulation, decrease the levels of LH and progesterone in the blood and cause poor oocyte development
-Animal studies also show that herbicides cause fetotoxicity, pseudopregnancy, anestrus, ovarian regression, and anovulation
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