If you are trying to get pregnant, get off your couch.
Odds are your furniture is covered with PBDEs, a type of flame retardant commonly found in household consumer products. According to a new University of California Berkeley study, women with higher blood levels of PBDEs took longer to become pregnant than women with lower PBDE levels.
PBDEs, or polybrominated diphenyl ethers, are a class of organobromine compounds that became commonplace after the 1970s when new fire safety standards were implemented in the United States. The flame retardants are used in foam furniture, electronics, fabrics, carpets, plastics and other common items in the home.
“There have been numerous animal studies that have found a range of health effects from exposure to PBDEs, but very little research has been done in humans,” the UC Berkeley researchers say.
This latest paper, published January 26 in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, found that each 10-fold increase in the blood concentration of four PBDE chemicals was linked to a 30 percent decrease in the odds of becoming pregnant each month.
“It is the first paper to address the impact on human fertility, and the results are surprisingly strong,”said the study's lead author, Kim Harley, adjunct assistant professor of maternal and child health and associate director of the Center for Children's Environmental Health Research at UC Berkeley's School of Public Health. “These findings need to be replicated, but they have important implications for regulators.”
Studies have found widespread contamination of house dust by PBDEs, which are known to leach out into the environment and accumulate in human fat cells.
Previously studies also suggest that 97 percent of U.S. residents have detectable levels of PBDEs in their blood, and that the levels in Americans are 20 times higher than in their European counterparts.
According to the researchers, residents in California are among those experiencing the highest exposures, most likely due to the state's relatively stringent flammability laws.
Although researchers are not entirely clear how PBDEs might impact fertility.