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4 Ways The Toxic Environment May Make Us Infertile

Photograph by Getty Images

I’m not one of those people who yearns for the simpler times of the past. Especially because women had so much more work to do then—without a dishwasher, a microwave, and yes, even disposable diapers. (God bless those who use cloth.)

But we pay a price for modernity, which we are increasingly aware, has toxic consequences. One of those is our health. Especially our fertility.

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We know, for example, that smoking ages the ovaries. “Women who smoke do not conceive as efficiently as nonsmokers. Infertility rates in both male and female smokers are about twice the rate of infertility found in nonsmokers. The risk for fertility problems increases with the number of cigarettes smoked daily,” according to the American Society of Reproductive Medicine. Obesity also affects our fertility, accounting for 6 percent of primary women’s infertility, and most will have a baby if they lose the weight.

But what about environmental factors that are more out of our control?

If you are suffering from infertility or worried that you will, here are four ways to reduce the toxicity in your environment that may negatively impact your chances of getting pregnant.

1. Throw Out the Plastic!

“Environmental factors can impact fertility in a number of ways,” says fertility acupuncturist, Angela Le, L.Ac. “BPAs found in plastic bottles, food wrappings and metal cans is an endocrine disruptor and can negatively influence oocyte maturation and increases chances for cell abnormality,” she said.

So if you were making excuses for all those plastic water bottles you were using—and contributing to environmental waste—now’s the time to switch over.

Some of the things that make our lives easier are also harming us.

2. Clean Up Your Cosmetics

Who knew that the very thing that makes you more attractive could contribute to toxicity? Parabens, found in personal care products and pharmaceuticals “have been linked to diminished ovarian reserve, may contribute to ovarian aging and is an endocrine disruptor,” Le said.

So you know you want to throw out those old, caked-up blushes from the turn of the century, and that too-red lipstick that screams, “look at me!” Go through all your makeup, lotions and shampoos and opt for natural products made for pregnant women. Those certainly will be safe for you.

3. Detoxify Your Home

Some of those things that make our lives easier are also harming us. Non-stick pans, for example, contain perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), which when overheated, release into the air and is a carcinogen. Two manmade pollutants, PFOS and PFOA, are found in clothing, carpets, food packaging, shampoo, non-stick cookware, insecticides, fire-fighting foam, and other household products. According to a UCLA study, women who had a higher concentration of these chemicals in their blood took a longer time to get pregnant.

“Animal studies have associated both PFOS and PFOA with increased pregnancy losses and disruption in sex hormone homeostasis and sexual maturation,” a study in Environmental Health Prospectives found.

There are plenty of cleaning products that are safe, and no one ever went wrong with a cast-iron pan. And if you’re like me, and love your non-stick cookware, you can find some that are eco-friendly too.

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4. Fix Your Diet

We can avoid smoking, and second-hand smoke. We can clean out our homes to the best of our ability. But we can’t always avoid the environmental hazards around us. The one thing we can do is fix our diet.

A recent study found that genetically modified corn made male rats sterile. So avoid GMO foods like soy and corn, buy organic meat and produce.

“The world is becoming more toxic and that we have to start to become aware of how we are how these toxins might affect our fertility,” Ms. Le said.

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