Are we going to hell in a handbag?  My mother thought so, mostly because I had terrible manners, poor posture and listened to music that was too loud.

I’m in LA this week and I am starting to wonder if my mother was right, though.  The air is filled with the smell of pot, they don’t compost and most places don’t seem to recycle, cars are everywhere, the air is full of smog, and every billboard has a nearly nude person flaunting some unnecessary product.

Is this the beginning of the end?  Or is this just me being a curmudgeon?

If you are female and reading this you know that this might just be my pre-menstrual crankiness. By the way, what is the evolutionary advantage of being irritable for a week before your period? Makes no sense.  I’ll leave that conversation for another blog.

Anyhoo, I am actually enjoying LA (amazing beaches, Getty Museum, great Mexican food) but I do realize how fortunate we are to live in BC.  In BC we have clean air, we are planning for our children’s future with green-initiatives, we have infrastructure for good water for millions of people, and so on.  Also, we have a movement towards less plastic and fewer toxins in our consumer products.  I realize other centres in the world are doing right by the environment (even more than we are), but I am proud of what we are doing in BC.

I think it matters for our fertility too. A recent review of all studies looking at chemicals in our bodies that come from plastics and cosmetics, agrees. It is hard to study the effects of these chemicals perfectly, because many of the chemicals in our environment only last a few hours in our body.  These transient chemicals can still disrupt our hormone pathways and impact fertility.  These studies did their best to look at chemical exposures in North American and European men and women, and analyzed how long it took for them to conceive.

MEN: there was a negative impact on fertility if the men had higher than average levels of benzopheones. Benzophenones are used in sunscreens and in cosmetics such as lipsticks, hairsprays, shampoos and skin lotions to prolong product durability.  A well known benzophenone is oxybenzone which is common in suncreens.

WOMEN:  female exposure to some parabens and glycol ethers was associated with prolonged time to conceive.  Parabens are chemicals with bactericidal or fungicidal properties that are frequently used as preservatives in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and food. Nearly 90% of people will have parabens detectable in their body at a random check.  Glycol ethers are organic solvents used in industrial applications but also in common consumer products (e.g. liquid soaps, cosmetics, perfumes, water-based paints, cleaning products).

Reference: Hipwell AE, et al; Exposure to non-persistent chemicals in consumer products and fecundability: a systematic review. Hum Reprod Update. 2019

Jan 1;25(1):51-71.

What do you do with this information? If you are struggling to get pregnant, try to avoid these chemicals. It’s hard, but worth doing your best.  The egg and sperm cycles are both about 80-90 days, so if you start minimizing your exposures to chemicals the benefit will be realized in 80-90 days.

Now, some exposures we cannot avoid.  During the forest fires I (observational – not a formal study) felt like my patients from northern BC had poorer than expected egg quality and I wonder whether inhaled toxins from the smoke might have played a role.  A researcher in Washington State observed something similar in mice.

We can only do our best with the information we have at the time.  This is the latest information (up to January 2019) that we can react to now. I hope it helps!