Part 2 of a 2-part series looking at environmental exposure to everyday chemicals and your health. For Part 1 click here.
If you are trying to conceive but are having a difficult time, what could be standing between you and a baby is your lifestyle and environment. A new Harvard University prospective cohort study is the first to find a possible association between parabens and impaired ovarian reserves.
The study, published in the August 2, 2013 edition of the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health Perspectives, found that one common parabens type — propylparaben — impacts female fertility by lowering the number of viable oocytes in the ovaries or by possibly prematurely aging the ovaries.
“Typically, as a woman’s age increases, her ovarian reserve diminishes, which is referred to as 'ovarian aging' and is associated with reduced fertility,” the study stated.
“For women undergoing fertility treatments, ovarian aging is also associated with a decreased response to ovarian stimulation protocols and lower pregnancy success rates.”
Parabens are preservatives added by manufacturers to personal care, cosmetics and some foods to extend their shelf life.
In 2004, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with the assistance of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, documented widespread human exposure to parabens. Some experimental data has suggested that they act as estrogenic endocrine disruptors, leading some researchers to believe that there is an association between the chemicals and breast cancer.
The new study’s researchers, led by Russ Hauser, Frederick Lee Hisaw Professor of Reproductive Physiology at Harvard School of Public Health, measured paraben concentrations with markers of ovarian reserve in the urine of 192 women, aged 35 or older. The women were undergoing fertility treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, between 2005-2010.