Were you born before 1977, drink water from plastic bottles and eat a fair bit of soy protein? Well, all of these factors could be contributing to infertility, both for males and females.
Toxins are becoming a much more well known contributor to infertility. In our modern society, the human body is subjected to numerous different toxins everyday. They are in the food we eat, the air we breathe, and the products we put on our skin. The regulatory agencies in the United States have done a poor job of policing these substances for embryo toxicity. The European Union has recently come out with guidelines to regulate these substances, as EU countries (France, Spain, etc) are all experiencing a very high rate of infertility. Here I will try and cover some of the major categories of these substances.
Estrogenic (estrogen-like) Compounds
These are compounds that mimic naturally occurring estrogen in the body. When they enter the body, the body perceives them to be just like estrogen and this sends incorrect signals to the body’s reproductive system and can interfere with the menstrual cycle and embryo implantation. Examples of these types of compounds are: Certain pesticides (DDT,) polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs – used extensively in plastics and industry prior to 1977 and still in our environment), dioxins, furans, alkylphenol polyethoxylates (used in making household detergents and plastics,) and phyto-Oestrogens (present in plants such as soybeans.)
The latest estrogenic compound to make the news is bisphenol A. It is the compound most commonly used in hardening the plastic for plastic water bottles. It has been a known toxin since 1933 and is now making headlines again.
The basic problem with estrogenic compounds is that they affect both men and women’s reproductive system. In women, it can cause lack of ovulation or irregular periods. In addition, for an embryo to implant, it needs low levels of estrogen and higher levels of progesterone. If estrogen-like compounds are entering the body from other sources, this can alter the necessary balance of estrogen/progesterone for implantation and the embryo will not implant. For men, sperm production depends on a proper ratio of testosterone to estrogen (more testosterone.) Again, if estrogen-like compounds are entering a man’s body, it can throw off that ratio, which leads to inadequate sperm quality and quantity.
The body is an extremely intelligent creation. It is much smarter than most scientists can imagine. Science is still making new discoveries every day about the human body, and will continue to do so for many years to come. With these estrogenic compounds, we are altering the delicate balance of hormones necessary for reproduction.
Normal, healthy human skin is an excellent place to deliver drugs. Nicotine patches and contraceptive patches are two excellent examples of how good the skin is at absorbing chemicals. The problem is that there are three classes of compounds that are in many skin creams that can affect fertility, the Vitamin A compounds, the benzone family, and tha salate family.
Vitamin A and Retinoic Acid
Our society is obsessed with looking young. There are hundreds of different products on the market to reduce the effects of aging, which mostly involves reducing wrinkles. Vitamin A and its derviatives (retin-A, retinoic acid, and tretinoic acid) are excellent wrinkle reducers. Numerous studies have shown they are the most effective compound we know at reducing wrinkles. The problem is that they are highly embryo toxic. You probably have heard of Accutane? It is the anti-acne medicine that take somebody with the worst case of acne you have ever seen to having the best skin on the planet in six months. The problems is that it is extremely toxic to embryos and fetuses. Well, its generic names is tretinoin and it is a vitamin A derivative. It is at the most toxic end of vitamin A’s toxicity spectrum.
Benzones and Salates
The benzone and salate families are the classes of chemicals most commonly found in sunscreen. Sunscreen, or anything that claims to be sunscreen/sublock, is an FDA regulated class of products. Similar to vitamin A compounds, then benzones, which include avobenzone, Oxybenzone, and Dioxybenzone, are all very effective sunscreens/sunblocks for UVA, while the salates, which include homosalate, octocrylene, and octinoxate, blocks UVB. The problem is that they are all detrimental to fertility. These chemicals fall into the estrogenic class and are absorbed very well by the skin. In addition, there are studies going on looking at the free radicals that are generated when these chemicals absorb sunlight. Other compounds exist, namely zinc and titanium dioxide, which are not absorbed by the skin, nor do these compounds absorb sunlight, they scatter the sunlight. Read the label of your sunscreen carefully, and remember that the best sunscreen is staying out of the sun or covering up.