PFC Toxins Found in Common Consumer Products Linked to Female Infertility

A new study—the first such study of its kind—has concluded that some common consumer items contain chemicals that can make it difficult for some women to conceive, reports the Discovery Channel.

Chunyuan Fei, a Ph.D. student in epidemiology at the University of California, Los Angeles, and colleagues, looked at <"">perfluorinated chemicals, known as PFCs; the team studied perflurooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctoanoate (PFOA), part of the larger PFC group, in particular.

When heated, PFCs break down into compounds that can be absorbed into food and enter the bloodstream.  In 2005, Federal investigators found PFOA is a “likely carcinogen” and called for expanded testing to study its potential to cause liver, breast, testicular, and pancreatic cancers.  The following year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) invited all companies involved with PFOA to join a voluntary “stewardship program” to reduce use and emissions of the chemical by 2010 and eliminate it by 2015.  The EPA’s voluntary phase-out does not apply to Chinese companies, which are among the leading manufacturers of food packaging.

PFCs appear in food packaging, shampoo, clothes, upholstery, pesticides, and a wide array of common household and consumer products.  “Because these chemicals are widespread, I think it’s important to conduct more study,” Fei said, reported Discovery.

Prior studies have linked PFOS and PFOA to adverse reactions in the livers, immune systems, and reproductive systems of animals, said Discovery.  PFOS is present in most people’s blood and accumulates over time; PFOA has been found to be present in 98 percent of Americans’ blood and 100 percent of newborns’ blood.  Despite evidence to the contrary, the chemical industry has long maintained that there is no reason to worry about PFOA in our bloodstreams.  PFOA is used to make Teflon pans, Gore-Tex clothes, and to prevent food from sticking to paper packaging.

The team previously discovered that women who bore many children had lower blood levels of PFOS and PFOA than did women who gave birth to less children.  Because of this, the group wanted to learn if PFCs affected human fertility, noting that eight percent of American women visit physicians for infertility-related reasons, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reported Discovery.

The team collected blood and reviewed over 1,200 newly pregnant women taking part in the Danish National Birth Cohort, a long-term health study.  All had become pregnant intentionally, said Discovery, with about 30 percent attempting pregnancy for over six months before conceiving; half of those tried for over one year.  The group found that those participants who tested with higher PFOS blood levels were up to 134 percent likelier to need at least six months to conceive while women with the most PFOA were up to 154 percent likelier to have problems conceiving, said Discovery.

PFOA does not break down and remains and accumulates in the body’s system over time.  Despite this, the chemical industry claims there is no reason to worry about PFOA.

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