Women’s Exposure to Environmental Pollutants Prompts Infertility and Low Egg Count

June 10, 2021 | Exposure to toxic chemicals decreases egg count and increases infertility risk among women, according to a study published in Environment International. Since 2014, U.S. fertility rates have been decreasing, with many attributing the decline to older age pregnancies. However, several findings demonstrate that exposure to environmental pollutants, like persistent organic pollutants (POPs) from the industrial and agricultural industry, contributes to a decline in fertility rates. Scientists and health officials already associate exposure to POPs, like pesticides, with adverse impacts on male fertility, including reduced sperm count, quality, and abnormal sperm development. The researchers note that these findings should urge government and health officials to reexamine chemical safety concerning reproductive health, and “strongly encourage [them] to study mechanisms behind POP-associated infertility in women in more detail.” The study results find women of all reproductive ages with higher levels of POPs in serum samples also have fewer immature eggs remaining in the ovaries. The 2001 Stockholm Convention treaty bans POPs. These pollutants have a global distribution, with evaporation and precipitation facilitating long-range atmospheric transport, deposition, and bioaccumulation of hazardous chemicals in the environment. The U.S. was a signatory to the treaty, but the U.S. Senate never ratified it, relegating U.S. officials to observer status. Some OCPs like lindane, although banned, remain active as pharmaceutical treatments for lice and scabies. Therefore, individuals can still encounter various POPs at varying concentrations. [Björvang, Richelle et al. Persistent organic pollutants and the size of ovarian reserve in reproductive-aged women. Environment International. 155: 106589, 2021.]