Toxic PFAS Chemicals may Reduce Fertility: Study

The connection between toxic PFAS* chemicals and infertility continues to grow. The results of a new study have revealed that women with PFAS chemicals in their blood might experience difficulty becoming pregnant.**  The data showed that those women who had exposure to certain PFAS chemicals had approximately a 40% reduced chance of becoming pregnant within one year.  On the general topic of PFAS chemicals and infertility, previous studies have demonstrated that PFAS chemicals alter reproductive hormones. Other studies have shown that the condition PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), which can adversely affect fertility, is linked to high exposures of the PFAS compounds in drinking water. More scientific research is needed on the link between PFAS chemicals and infertility before any definitive conclusions can be drawn.

*PFAS chemicals (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are toxic to humans, animals and the environment. They are comprised of approximately 12,000 compounds. They are ubiquitous in the U.S., appearing in thousands of consumer and industrial products and are typically used to make products resist water, stains and heat, including household products (like carpeting, curtains, furniture upholstery, waterproof and stain-resistant flooring, etc.), cooking supplies (including cooking utensils and bake ware), clothing, personal care products (like cosmetics, including waterproof mascara) and even food (PFAS appears in processed food packaging for humans and pets) and public drinking water (tap water) that affects an estimated 2 million Americans. PFAS chemicals are usually found in products labeled “stain-proof” and “waterproof”.  PFAS chemicals also appear in fire-fighting foam and other industrial products used at airports and military bases across the country, where the chemicals have leached into the groundwater. PFAS chemicals are known as “forever chemicals” because they do not readily break down in the environment or human body.  PFAS chemicals have been linked in scientific and medical studies to a variety of serious health conditions including cancer (including testicular cancers), kidney disease, heart disease, thyroid problems, reproductive problems, endocrine problems (PFAS has been found to disrupt hormonal functions with some research suggesting that the PFAS chemicals are linked to accelerated ovarian aging, period irregularities and ovarian disorders like polycystic ovarian syndrome) and liver problems. Some newer PFAS have been found to accumulate in organs, so in some cases, science simply cannot detect the toxic chemicals when testing for it in blood.

** In a case-control study nested within the population-based Singapore Preconception Study of Long-Term Maternal and Child Outcomes (S-PRESTO), researchers measured PFAS in plasma collected in 2015-2017 from 382 women of reproductive age trying to conceive. 

Journal reference: Cohen, Nathan J., et al. Exposure to perfluoroalkyl substances and women’s fertility outcomes in a Singaporean population-based preconception cohort. Science and the Total Environment Journal, 2023 May 15;873:162267.

doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2023.162267. Epub 2023 Feb 17.