Air Pollution & Fertility: What’s The Link?

Environmental Impact On Fertility

Though numerous health conditions contribute to infertility, such as PCOS, endometriosis, uterine fibroids, and thyroid disease, the scientific community has become increasingly invested in research that uncovers the impact of environmental conditions on conception. It’s well accepted that certain hazardous chemicals, environmental pollutants, and radiation contribute to or cause infertility. These environmental factors decrease fertility in the following ways:

  • They cause endocrine disruption
  • They damage the female reproductive system
  • They damage the male reproductive system
  • They reduce fetal viability

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, “The worst fertility disrupters are organochlorine compounds (chlorinated pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls, and dioxins), bisphenol A (BPA), and organophosphate pesticides and herbicides. However, many other chemicals, metals, and air pollutants seriously damage fertility.”

What The Latest Research Shows: Air Pollution Is A Major Threat

Public health leaders have long warned of the dangers of poor air quality, but its impact on fertility has not been studied until now. With 30% of infertility left unexplained by medical professionals, the new insights could shine a light on the critical role the environment plays in reproductive health. The latest scientific research on environmental causes of infertility illustrates the devastating impact that air pollution has on fertility rates. A landmark study of over 10,000 Chinese couples found that air pollution led to a 20% increase in infertility.* Though the study in China does not offer answers to why air pollution causes increased infertility, experts speculate that chronic inflammation, hormone interference, and DNA disruption caused by poor air quality damages egg and sperm production.

Another study of 600 US women also showed that increased air pollution exposure led to lower egg counts. In addition to lower fertility rates, pollution also seems to reduce IVF success rates. “Audrey Gaskins, a research fellow at Harvard, found that women undergoing in vitro fertilization who lived close to major roadways had a lower chance of a successful embryo implantation and live birth than those who lived farther from major roadways and heavy traffic pollution.”

“…small-particle pollution could be an unignorable risk factor for infertility.”

Qin Li, from the Centre for Reproductive Medicine at Peking University

Where Do We Go From Here?

Most women and men who live in congested cities do not have the luxury to move to less polluted locations, so how can they mitigate the effects of smog on their reproductive (and overall) health? There are several scientifically supported tactics that individuals can take to help them avoid the negative consequences of air pollution:

  • Limit physical activity outdoors on high air pollution days
  • Follow air quality alerts and alter activities accordingly
  • Wear facial coverings when possible
  • Utilize high-efficiency air filters indoors

Unfortunately, many US couples struggle to conceive, and infertility rates have increased across the board. While couples may seek medical help in the form of fertility treatments, IUI, IVF, egg and sperm donation, egg freezing, and surrogacy, these treatments are costly and come with no guarantee of a successful pregnancy. 

At The Gift of Parenthood organization, we look forward to a future of more affordable and successful fertility treatment options for those struggling. In the meantime, we aim to help couples and individuals struggling with infertility achieve their dreams of becoming parents through fertility assistance grants ranging from $1,000 to $16,000, available four times a year. 

Will you be our next grant recipient? Apply today.

*infertility in this study is defined as not becoming pregnant within a year of trying.

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-Gift of Parenthood


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