In a study from Harvard School of Public Health high urinary levels of a common phthalate (MEHP) were tightly connected to implantation failure in IVF. The study was reported at the 2010 American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) conference.
Phthalates are very common ubiquitous environmental contaminants which have previously been shown to harm male reproductive health. DEHP which is the parent compound on MEHP is a common industrial as plasticizers used to soften hard plastics and is a common phthalate in food.
Other phthalates are commonly used in personal care products and appear innocuously upon product labels as 'fragrance.' The many sources of phthalates can seem overwhelming: air fresheners, room fragrance products, dryer sheets, most perfumes, nail polish, time-released laundry scents are all common ways that phthalates enter your body.
Phthalates can be absorbed, inhaled and eaten, but your diet is probably your main source of phthalate exposure, the compounds are especially concentrated in fatty foods. It's hard to avoid phthalates altogether, population studies show that most people have traces of phthalates in their bodies, the question is how great is your exposure?
In a study at Massachusetts General Hospital Vincent Fertility Clinic exploring the connection between IVF and phthalate exposure, Dr. Ehrlich, M.D., followed 79 women through 96 IVF cycles. The study showed that women who had the highest levels of phthalate in their urine had significantly higher rates of implantation failure in their IVF cycles.
Previous studies on the same phthalate (MEHP) have shown that it has embryo-toxic and feto-toxic effects which may explain the lower IVF success rates when MEHP levels are high. Other studies on MEHP have shown that when levels of the phthalate are elevated free thyroid hormones are lowered which could be another way in which the phthalate interferes with IVF success.
The key to keeping your exposure low could be through keeping a check on certain foods in your diet. One interesting study demonstrated how after just five days of a vegetarian diet - and withdrawal of personal care products - urinary levels of the break-down products of phthalates dropped markedly. The study suggest that people may be able to lower their phthalate levels by cutting their intake of fatty foods like meat and dairy foods.
Other studies have found that fast food packaging is a major source or phthalate ingestion especially microwave popcorn, and other foods which come into contact with greece proof, non-stick packaging.
Keeping phthalate exposure in check could help your baby-to-be too. Studies show that the greater your exposure to certain phthalates the greater the likelihood that your child may develop behavioral problems and concluding that:
"Behavioral domains adversely associated with prenatal exposure to LMW phthalates in our study are commonly found to be affected in children clinically diagnosed with conduct or attention deficit hyperactivity disorders."
Keeping your phthalate exposure low may prove tricky but could hold the key to both improving fertility and protecting your child’s neurological health.
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Ehrlich S, et al Urinary metabolites of di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate are associated with increased risk of implantation failure among women undergoing IVF ASRM 2010; Abstract O-248.
Medpage Today accessed Dec 6 2010
Ji, K, YL Kho, Y Park and K Choi. 2010. Influence of a five-day vegetarian diet on urinary levels of antibiotics and phthalate metabolites: A pilot study with Temple Stay” participants. Environmental Research.
Engel, SM, A Miodovnik, RL Canfield, C Zhu, MJ Silva, AM Calafat and MS Wolff. 2010. Prenatal phthalate exposure is associated with childhood behavior and executive function. Environmental Health Prespectives. 118(4):565-71
Jessica C. D'eon, Scott A. Mabury. Exploring Indirect Sources of Human Exposure to Perfluoroalkyl Carboxylates (PFCAs): Evaluating Uptake, Elimination and Biotransformation of Polyfluoroalkyl Phosphate Esters (PAPs) in the Rat. Environmental Health Perspectives, 2010; DOI: 10.1289/ehp.1002409