In daily life we can encounter many different chemicals through the products we use, the food we eat, and the air we breathe.
Studies show that a particular group of chemicals called endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) can affect sperm and egg quality and, therefore, the chance of having a baby.
Studies show that around 95% of people have EDCs in their bodies and that people who struggle to conceive have higher levels of some EDCs. It is also known that higher levels of some EDCs decrease their chance of pregnancy among couples who use assisted reproductive technologies such as IVF.
While the effects of EDCs are subtle, it is important for people to understand what they can do to reduce their exposure to these chemicals. In particular, if you are planning a pregnancy or are already pregnant, there are some things you can consider doing to limit your contact with EDCS.
How to limit your contact with EDCs in the home
- washing fruit and vegetables to remove any chemicals that they have been sprayed with.
- eating fewer processed and pre-packaged foods, as EDCs are present in the material used to coat the inside of cans.
- limiting how much oily fish (salmon, tuna, sardines) and fatty meats you eat reduces your consumption of chemicals that can accumulate in the fat of some animals.
- avoiding handling shiny sales receipts – they’re covered in chemicals.
- drinking water and soft drinks from glass or hard plastic bottles rather than soft plastic bottles. EDC-containing plasticisers are used to make plastic bottles flexible.
- not heating food in soft plastic ‘takeaway’ containers or those covered with cling wrap or tin foil. When these products are heated, the chemicals in the plastic or foil is absorbed into the food, especially if the food is fatty. Instead, use a china or glass bowl and cover with a paper towel or plate. It is also important to keep in mind that plastic advertised as ‘BPA free’, for example, may contain replacement chemicals such BPS which can be just as harmful.
- avoiding air fresheners, smoke, strong chemicals, heavily perfumed products, plastic smells and fumes. If you can smell it, it is in high concentration!
- airing your home frequently to reduce the chance of breathing in chemical particles.
- choosing ‘green’ gardening products where possible and avoiding pesticides and herbicides in the garden.
- replacing strong household cleaning products with ‘green’ alternatives wherever possible. Household products which can have problematic chemicals include detergents, hand sanitisers, cleaning agents, and carpet cleaners; EDCs can also be found in glues, paints, and varnishes.
- reading the labels on all personal care products such as cosmetics, shampoos, conditioners, hair colourings and body washes and choosing those are free of parabens.
- reading the labels on all food products and avoiding those with additives, preservatives and anti-bacterial agents.
The impact of chemicals in the home on men and women’s fertility is the subject of Fertility Week 2017, which runs between 15-21 October across Australia. To find out more about this topic or for other fertility-related information, please visit www.yourfertility.org.au