Chemicals used in furniture and gym mats could be making women infertile, study suggests

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  1. fuz al-nufi Bar Regular

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    Chemicals used in furniture and gym mats could be making women infertile, study suggests

    'Couples undergoing IVF and trying to improve their chances of success by reducing their exposure to environmental chemicals may want to opt for products that are flame-retardant free,' says Harvard University professor
    The Independent Online
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    Flame-retardant chemicals used on furniture and other products could be making women infertile, a new study suggests.

    Researchers in the US found more than 80 per cent of women having fertility treatment at the Massachusetts General Hospital had traces of three types of chemicals known as PFRs in their urine.

    And those with high levels of the chemicals were 38 per cent less likely to have a child after a cycle of IVF treatment than those with low levels.

    While the study does not prove the chemicals are causing infertility, it highlights a possible link.

    One of the researchers, Dr Courtney Carignan, said: “These findings suggest that exposure to PFRs may be one of many risk factors for lower reproductive success.”

    “They also add to the body of evidence indicating a need to reduce the use of these flame retardants and identify safer alternatives.”

    And her colleague at Harvard Unviversity’s school of public health, Professor Russ Hauser, said the evidence was strong enough to make prospective parents think about trying to avoid exposure to the chemicals.


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    “Couples undergoing IVF and trying to improve their chances of success by reducing their exposure to environmental chemicals may want to opt for products that are flame-retardant free,” he said.

    PFRs were introduced as flame retardants as a supposedly safer alternative to PentaBDE after evidence of its adverse health effects.

    However concern has been growing about PFRs – organophosphate flame retardants – which are used in polyurethane foam in upholstered furniture, baby products and gym mats, for example. They can spread from furniture into the air and dust of rooms.


    This adds to something of a cocktail of hormone-disrupting chemicals in modern houses, a problem that can be exacerbated by a lack of effective ventilation. Pesticides and phthalates, which are used to make plastic more flexible in a whole host of products, have also been linked with reproductive problems.

    Commenting on the new study, Professor Richard Anderson, an expert in clinical reproductive science at Edinburgh University, said: “There is growing concern that the chemicals we are all exposed to may have an impact on fertility, but direct evidence of impact in men and women has often been limited.

    “This carefully conducted study analysed chemicals from flame retardants in urine from women having IVF, and found that the chemicals were detected in most women.

    “Worryingly, higher concentrations of these chemicals were associated with substantial reductions in the success of IVF, with a lower chance of having a baby.”

    He said this method of studying the effects of chemicals on fertility was a good one.

    “Studying couples having IVF is a powerful way of carrying out analyses such as this, as it allows each of the steps in conception and pregnancy to be examined, which isn’t possible in natural conception,” he said.

    “While this study doesn’t prove that these chemicals are the cause of the lower success rate, it provides a firm basis for further experiments to investigate them.

    “It also provides strong support for the need to regulate our exposure to chemicals and test their potential impact on fertility.”

    Professor Allan Pacey, of Sheffield University, said the data obtained by the Harvard researchers “seems fairly convincing” and supported the idea of “a link between a woman’s exposure to these flame-retardant chemicals and her chances of getting pregnant”.


    However, he also stressed that it did not prove this.

    “We should be sensitive to the fact that the urinary metabolite concentration of these chemicals in this study could be a surrogate marker for another aspect of the woman’s lifestyle that is actually causing the effect observed,” he added.

    “Ultimately, we need to keep our lives safe from fire and so before men and women undergoing IVF throw away their yoga mats, I think we need a bit more data in larger populations and in various parts of the world.

    “We also need some more details about the likely mechanism by which these chemicals could be causing such an effect.”

    A paper about the study was published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
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  2. Georg Schoenerer Der Judenkenner

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    An architect friend back in the 90s told me about offgassing in new homes/furniture; I've always preferred rustic or character so I've never lived in a brand new house. Antique or at least 2nd hand furniture has already gassed off the Volatile Organic Compounds, definitely the way to go.

    Formaldehyde is present in most plywood, engineered wood products, glues, carpets, etc., electronics offgas triphenyl phosphate when they warm up, cleaning products also emit VOCs. Infertility is one downside, another is cancer.

    I guess safety trumps all unless you're talking about the bottom line--way too expensive for companies to make shit safe.

    Reminds me of when my kid was little and would get some cheap plastic toy at a birthday or somewhere; she'd sniff it, hold it out and smile "hey dad, it smells like China!!"
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  3. Mandalore in recovery from sobriety

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    Gym mats, huh? Well, if that's what causes it, now I understand why she got knocked up so damn fast.
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