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Infertility is linked to chemicals found in cookware, clothing

February 9, 2009 |  6:50 pm

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Pregnant women in the U.S. are at greater risk than previously thought for infertility and reproductive problems from exposure to chemicals found in many consumer products including food wrappers, cookware and clothing.

According to scientists at the UCLA School of Public Health, women with high levels of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) in their blood had a harder time conceiving and were twice as likely to be diagnosed with infertility as women with lower levels of the chemicals in their systems.

The study, published Jan. 29 in the European medicine journal Human Reproduction, analyzed data from 1,240 women from a 1996 Danish study. Women with more than 3.9 ppb (parts per billion) of PFOA in their bodies had a dramatically reduced chance of conceiving, the study found.

The study is one of the few to examine how the chemicals affect humans.

“Recently animal studies have shown that these chemicals may have a variety of toxic effects on the liver, immune system and developmental and reproductive organs,” said Chunyuan Fei, the study’s first author. “Very few human studies have been done, but one of our earlier studies showed that PFOA, although not PFOS, may impair the growth of babies in the womb.”

PFOA, a synthetic chemical, can lead to developmental problems in lab animals and pose a risk to the environment, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

PFOA is useful because it has fire-resistant and water-repellent qualities, which are useful in making in non-stick cookware, all-weather clothing and food packaging.

--Catherine Ho

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Photo: A new UCLA study indicates that infertility may be linked to exposure to PFOS and PFOA, toxic chemicals that are present in many consumer products, including non-stick cookware. Credit: Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times

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