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The following article was published in Your Health Magazine. Our mission is to empower people to live healthier.
Rafat Abbasi, MD
The Environment and Fertility
Columbia Fertility Associates

The Environment and Fertility

In the United States at least 12-15% of the population is infertile. Multiple factors contribute to infertility including, but not limited to, age, nutritional factors, heredity, lifestyle, disease, infections and delay in the first pregnancy. Data from Centers for Disease Control shows that infertility is on the risk in all age groups but sharply in women younger than age 25. Additionally, research on animals has shown impaired fertility caused by several modern chemicals, thus implicating environmental factors as well as a cause of infertility.
A large proportion of health problems, including infertility may be caused by exposure to environmental toxins. Some of these agents may be related to occupational sources and at levels commonly experienced (environmentally relevant).
Male causes of infertility, such as hypospadias, (a condition where the male urethra opens on the underside of the penis instead of at the end), cryptorchidism (failure of one or both testis to descend into the scrotum) and testicular cancer are increasing in certain geographical areas. Other fertility-related diseases in the female, including polycystic ovary syndrome and endometriosis are more prevalent. Ten percent of infertile couples are defined as having “unexplained” infertility. It is possible that environmental agents may cause these forms of infertility.
For example, cigarette smoking has an adverse impact on fertility in both men and women. Thousands of chemicals found in cigarette smoke can also be found elsewhere in the environment. Pharmaceutical agents such as diethylstilbestrol, (DES) which was used to prevent miscarriages in the 50s and 60s, were linked to abnormalities of the reproductive tract in the offspring. Lead and the fumigant dibromochloropropane have been shown to impair fertility. Certain agricultural pesticides at environmentally relevant levels have been associated with male subfertility, sperm damage, menstrual irregularities, increased time to pregnancy and spontaneous miscarriage rates.
Newer scientific methods are being studied and developed to better understand the environmental contributions to human infertility because these adverse effects are largely preventable.

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