Chemicals commonly found in food packaging, cookware,
upholstery and carpets may be damaging women's fertility, say
A study published in the journal Human Reproduction measured
levels of perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) in the blood of 1,240
Those with higher levels were more likely to take longer to
UK experts said more research was needed to confirm a link.
PFCs are useful in industry because they
are resistant to heat, and have the ability to repel water and
oil. But they are commonly used in non-stick cookware, and eating
off non-stick cookware inevitably results in the consumption
of these chemicals.
(Perfluorooctanoic Acid) is used as a necessary processing aid
in the manufacture of all fluoropolymers. PFOA is a well known
carcinogen that has been linked to cancer, birth defects and
liver damage. Scientific studies have validated with certainty
that PFOA is released from the fluoropolymer-based end products.
High concentrations have been linked to organ damage in animals,
and the chemicals have the ability to persist for long periods
in the body.
The researchers, from the University of California in Los Angeles,
analysed blood samples taken at the time of the woman's first
antenatal visit, then interviewed the women about whether the
pregnancy was planned, and how long it had taken them to get
The levels of the chemicals varied from 6.4 nanograms per
millilitre of blood - a nanogram is a billionth of a gram -
to 106.4 nanograms per ml.
When the group of women were divided into four groups depending
on these levels, they found that, compared to women in the group
with the lowest readings, the likelihood of infertility - taking
more than a year or IVF to get pregnant - was significantly
higher for women with higher levels of PFCs in their bloodstream.
Dr Chunyuan Fei, one of the researchers, said that earlier
studies had suggested that PFCs might impair the growth of babies
in the womb.
She said that more women in the groups with higher exposure
to PFCs had problems with irregular menstrual cycles , which
might suggest that interference with hormones was the reason.
Professor Jorn Olsen, who led the study, said that the team
were now waiting for further studies to confirm the link between
fertility problems and PFCs.
Tony Rutherford, chairman of the British Fertility Society,
said that the findings were "interesting".
"This research shows a tenuous link in the delay to conception
in women with the highest levels of two commonly-used perfluorinated
"It is an important finding and certainly warrants further
detailed research, particularly in those trying for a family.
"The study emphasises the importance of remaining vigilant
to potential environmental factors that may impact on fertility."