Products with flame retardant chemicals — like yoga mats and computer cases — could be disrupting in-vitro fertilization.
Women undergoing or interested in this fertility treatment are advised to avoid products containing flame retardants after a new study from Harvard University uncovered a connection between these chemicals and a failure to get pregnant.
Researchers found that women with traces of organophosphate flame retardant chemicals in their urine were 40% less likely to become pregnant or have a successful birth.
The study analyzed 211 women undergoing in-vitro fertilization and found that eight out of 10 of them had flame retardant chemicals in their urine. Women with higher levels of these chemicals had 10% reduced chance of successful fertilization, 31% reduction in successful implantation of the embryo, and 40% decrease in both clinical pregnancy and live birth.
“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,” the study’s senior author Russ Hauser said in a statement.
Organophosphate flame retardant chemicals are often found in products that use polyurethane foam, like upholstered furniture (including sofas and mattresses), computer cases, car seats and gym mats.
This is the first study to connect flame retardants to reproduction.
Former flame retardants, like PentaBDE, were phased out about over a decade ago after previous research connected them to negative health effects in animals. Current flame retardants were meant to be a safer alternative but there’s increasing research indicating that the chemicals could be hormone disruptors.
Courtney Carignan, who worked on the study, said this new research indicates a “need to reduce the use of these flame retardants and identify safer alternatives.”