Several surprising products may have an impact on your chances to be a parent, recent research has shown. If you are planning to undergo fertility treatment, you might want to avoid products like yoga mats. Products with flame retardant chemicals can disrupt in-vitro fertilisation (IVF), the study has claimed. The findings showed that women with higher urinary concentrations of a common type of flame retardant known as organophosphate flame retardants (PFRs) – used in polyurethane foam in many products, including upholstered furniture, baby products and gym mats – had reduced likelihood of clinical pregnancy and live birth following IVF, than those with lower concentrations.
“These findings suggest that exposure to PFRs may be one of many risk factors for lower reproductive success,” said lead author Courtney Carignan, a research fellow at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. In the study, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, urinary metabolites (products of a chemical that has been metabolised) of three PFRs – TDCIPP, TPHP, and mono-ITP – were detected in more than 80% of participants.
Women with higher concentrations had a 10% reduced probability of successful fertilisation, 31% reduced probability of implantation of the embryo, and a 41% and 38% decrease in clinical pregnancy (foetal heartbeat confirmed by ultrasound) and live birth, as compared to women with lower concentrations of these metabolites. “Couples undergoing IVF and trying to improve their chances of success by reducing their exposure to environmental chemicals may want to opt for products that are flame-retardant free,” said Russ Hauser, professor at the varsity.
PFRs were initially introduced as a safer alternative, to flame retardant PentaBDE used in polyurethane foam, which was phased out more than a decade ago. However, PFRs have been found in animal studies to cause hormone disruption. Studies have also shown that PFRs can migrate out of furniture and other products into the air and dust of indoor environments.