Environmental toxins harm fertility, prostate health

September 30, 2013

Toxic chemicals in the environment harm our ability to reproduce and are associated with poor semen quality and prostate cancer, among other long-term health problems, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.

Toxic chemicals in the environment harm our ability to reproduce and are associated with poor semen quality and prostate cancer, among other long-term health problems, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM).

In a joint committee opinion, the two organizations called for government policy changes to identify and reduce exposure to toxic environmental agents.

“Lawmakers should require the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and industry to define and estimate the dangers that aggregate exposure to harmful chemicals pose to pregnant women, infants, and children and act to protect these vulnerable populations,” said Jeanne A. Conry, MD, PhD, of ACOG.

“Prenatal exposure to certain chemicals is linked to miscarriages, stillbirths, and birth defects,” Dr. Conry said.

The scientific evidence over the last 15 years shows that exposure to toxic environmental agents before conception and during pregnancy can have significant and long-lasting effects on reproductive health.

“For example, pesticide exposure in men is associated with poor semen quality, sterility, and prostate cancer,” said Linda C. Giudice, MD, PhD, president of ASRM. “We also know that exposure to pesticides may interfere with puberty, menstruation and ovulation, fertility, and menopause in women.”

Approximately 700 new chemicals are introduced into the U.S. market each year, and more than 84,000 chemical substances are being used in manufacturing and processing or are being imported.

“The scary fact is that we don’t have safety data on most of these chemicals even though they are everywhere-in the air, water, soil, our food supply, and everyday products,” Dr. Conry said. “Bisphenol A (BPA), a hormone disruptor, is a common toxic chemical contained in our food, packaging, and many consumer products.

“To successfully study the impact of these chemical exposures, we must shift the burden of proof from the individual health care provider and the consumer to the manufacturers before any chemicals are even released into the environment,” she said.

Certain groups of people and communities have higher exposures to harmful environmental chemicals than others, including women exposed to toxic chemicals at work and low-wage immigrants who work on farms and are exposed to chemicals used on the crops they harvest, Dr. Conry said.

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