Daily or high exposure to organic solvents is associated with reduced fertility in women
Affecting over 6 million women nationwide, female infertility refers to difficulty getting or staying pregnant. There are numerous causes for this condition, such as structural problems in the reproductive system, endometriosis, failure to ovulate, and polycystic ovary syndrome.
Still, a more obscure cause is toxic exposure. During the last century, toxic exposure would occur daily at Camp Lejeune because servicewomen and the wives of servicemen would drink water contaminated with industrial solvents. They would also use the water for cooking, which only worsened the extent of toxic exposure.
When female infertility is the result of hormonal changes due to toxic exposure, some of its symptoms are the following:
- skin changes, including more acne
- loss of hair
- dark hair growth on the lips and chin
- weight gain
- irregular menstrual cycle
- chronic pelvic pain
A study from the medical journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that exposure to solvents may impair fertility of either gender, but the evidence for female effects was stronger than for male effects. Solvents and their metabolites are rapidly distributed through circulation to different tissues. Reproductive disorders, including fertility problems, have been associated with exposure. The researchers assessed fertility among the families in the Agricultural Health Study cohort. Out of the participants, 1,300 were female applicators. They were asked whether they pained or used gasoline or other solvents for cleaning hands or equipment. Following the analysis, 28% of the couples were found to be subfertile, meaning that conceiving will take longer than it normally does or it may not happen at all. In women, subfertility increased with:
- body mass index
Studies have shown that PFAS disrupt normal reproductive function in women by altering hormone secretion, menstrual cyclicity, and fertility. These chemicals have been lurking in the drinking water at Camp Lejeune since 1967. In a study, the researchers discovered that PFAS exposure can severely impact fertility in women by causing lower egg counts. Since female fertility is age-dependent, they made sure to adjust the calculations depending on the age of each woman who participated in the study. The findings highlighted the fact that PFAS exposure resulted in fewer eggs in women of all ages.
Furthermore, researchers discovered that women with higher levels of these chemicals in their blood had to try for a longer time to get pregnant. Women with the highest concentrations of PFAS in their bodies had to try for more than one year. Unlike men, women are born with a fixed set of immature eggs in their ovaries. A woman's number of eggs in her ovaries naturally becomes lower through monthly ovulations and follicle death. The findings of this study imply that toxic chemicals may speed up the disappearance of ovarian follicles, which can lead to reduced fertility.
Lastly, a meta-analysis from Environmental Research found that exposure to a high PFAS level was associated with reduced fertility in women, which was characterized by a reduced fecundability odds ratio and increased infertility odds ratio. The researchers examined 13 scientific articles that met the inclusion criteria. PFOA was negatively associated with the female fecundability odds ratio and positively associated with the odds ratio for infertility, while PFOS was negatively associated with the fecundability odds ratio.