ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
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Folic Acid Might Offer Allergy Relief
Combating Myths About Seasonal Allergies
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Wristbands May Lessen Nausea After Radiation
Holistic Treatment for Candida Infection
Bitter Melon Extract May Slow, Stop Breast Cancer
ANIMAL CARE
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
Beware of Dog Bites
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
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Put Your Best Foot Forward Next Year
New Clues to How Fish Oils Help Arthritis Patients
Backpack Safety Should Be on Back-to-School Lists
CANCER
Tanning Beds Shown To Raise Cancer Risk, Study Says
Smoking Exposure Now Linked to Colon, Breast Cancers
Where You Live May Affect Your Cancer Diagnosis
CAREGIVING
Exercise During Pregnancy May Help Baby
Late-Life Fatherhood May Lower Child's Intelligence
Depression, PTSD Common Among Lung Transplant Patient Caregivers
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Bye, Bye Back Fat?
Smog Tougher on the Obese
Anemia Rates Down for U.S. Women and Children
COSMETIC
Wrinkle Fillers Need Better Label Warnings: FDA Panel
New Genetic Links to Baldness Discovered
The Acne Drug Accutane More Than Doubles Depression Risk
DENTAL, ORAL
Obesity Boosts Gum Disease Risk
Laser Technology Spots Cavities Before They Start
Gum Disease May Reactivate AIDS Virus
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Strict Blood Sugar Lowering Won't Ease Diabetes Heart Risk
Treatment for Type 2 Diabetes Updated
Poor Blood Sugar Control After Heart Surgery Impacts Outcomes
DIET, NUTRITION
Adults Need To Get Thier Food Facts Straight
Imagine Food Aromas That Prevent Overeating
Trans-Fat Ban In New York City Is Proving successful
DISABILITIES
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Where You Live May Affect Your Cancer Diagnosis
Childhood Food Allergies on the Rise
Main Ingredients in Household Dust Come From Outdoors
EYE CARE, VISION
High Temps Degrade Contact Lens Solution: Study
Decorative Halloween Eye Lenses May Pose Serious Risks
Clues Found to Brain Mechanism Behind Migraines
FITNESS
Fall Cleanup Is a Prime Time for Accidents
Antioxidants Blunt Exercise Benefit, Study Shows
Keep Safety in Mind While Your Kids Are Cooling Off in the Water
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Bowel Prep Harder on Women Than Men
Traditional Nonsurgical GERD Treatments Not Impressive
Japanese Herbals May Ease Gastro Woes
GENERAL HEALTH
Cocaine Spurs Long-Term Change in Brain Chemistry
U.S. Prepares for Possible Return of Swine Flu in Fall
You Can Get Great Exercise In The Garden
HEAD & NECK
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
E-Mailing Your Way to Healthier Habits
Save Your Aging Brain, Try Surfing The Web
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
A Little Chocolate May Do the Heart Good
Arteries Age Twice as Fast in Smokers
Cherry-Enriched Diet Cut Heart Risks in Rats
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Swine Flu Closes Three Schools in NYC
Chinese 'Devil Dung' Plant Could Be a Swine Flu Fighter
The HPV Vaccine: Preventative Medicine or Human Sacrifice?
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Too Many Infants Short on Vitamin D
Eating Fish, Breast-Feeding Boost Infant Development
Teen Internet Addicts More Likely to Self-Harm: Study
MEN'S HEALTH
Low Vitamin D Levels May Boost Men's Heart Attack Risk
Could Chinese Herb Be a Natural Viagra?
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MENTAL HEALTH
A Little Alcohol May Stave Off Alzheimer's
Cinnamon Breaks Up Brain Plaques, May Hold Key to Fighting Alzheimer’s
Most Depressed Teens Don't Get Treatment
PAIN
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Placebo Acupuncture Tied to Higher IVF Pregnancies
Mom's Extra Pregnancy Pounds May Raise Child's Heart Risks
Calcium Supplements Cut Blood Lead Levels During Pregnancy
SENIORS
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
Nighttime Urination Linked to Higher Death Rate Among Elderly
Fitness Fades Fast After 45
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Lose Weight, Sleep Apnea May Improve
Daylight Savings: Not a Bright Time for All
Pay Attention to Signs That Say You're Too Fatigued to Drive
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Rheumatoid Arthritis Rising Among U.S. Women
Natural Childbirth Moms More Attuned to Babies' Cry
Postmenopausal Women With Breast Cancer Face Joint Issues
Add your Article

Flame-Retardant Chemical Linked to Conception Problems

Women who are exposed to a common chemical that's used as a flame retardant may take longer to become pregnant, a new study finds.

The chemicals, called PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers), are found in a variety of products including foam furniture, electronics, fabrics, carpets, plastics and other common household items and have been linked to a variety of health problems, researchers say.

"Women with high PBDE levels were 30 to 50 percent less likely to become pregnant in any given month than women with lower levels," said lead researcher Kim Harley, an adjunct assistant professor of maternal and child health and associate director of the Center for Children's Environmental Health Research at the University of California Berkeley School of Public Health.

"Although these chemicals are being phased out of new products, they will be around for a long time," she added.

The report is published in the Jan. 26 issue of Environmental Health Perspectives.

For the study, Harley's team measured PBDE levels in blood samples from 223 pregnant women who took part in a study at the Center for the Health Assessment of Mothers and Children of Salinas, which looked at environmental exposures and reproduction.

Among these women, concentrations of PBDEs were slightly lower than in the general U.S. population. The researchers speculate that this may be due to the fact that many of the women grew up in Mexico where exposure to PBDEs are limited.

Limiting their analysis to women who were trying to become pregnant, Harley's group found that women with high levels of PBDE in their blood were half as likely to become pregnant in any given month. In fact, for every tenfold increase in blood levels of PBDEs, the odds of becoming pregnant were reduced 30 percent.

These findings held even after the researchers took into account exposure to pesticides, irregular menstrual cycles, frequency of intercourse, weight, use of birth control pills in the year before conception, smoking, and alcohol and caffeine use.

The reasons for the chemical's effect on pregnancy isn't clear, Harley said. Harley noted that very little research has been done in humans. However, animal studies have found a variety of health effects from these chemicals including pregnancy problems, she said.

These animal studies have found that PBDEs can harm neurodevelopment, lower thyroid hormones and change levels of sex hormones. High or low thyroid hormone levels can disrupt normal menstrual patterns in humans, Harley noted.

PBDEs became common after the 1970s with new fire-safety standards in the United States. Studies have found widespread PBDE dust in homes. These chemicals are known to leach into the environment and accumulate in human fat cells, Harley said.

Studies have found that 97 percent of Americans have detectable levels of PBDEs in their blood. These levels are 20 times higher than found in Europeans. According to Harley, Californians have some of the highest exposures to these chemicals due to strict fire laws in that state.

Harley said the best way to reduce your exposure to PBDEs is to reduce your exposure to house dust, by using a wet mop and vacuuming with a filtered vacuum cleaner and washing your hands often.

While there are some 209 different formulations of PBDEs, only three -- pentaBDE, octaBDE and decaBDE -- have been developed for commercial use as flame retardants. PentaBDE and octaBDE have both been banned in several states, including California, but are still in products made before 2004.

Last month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that three major manufacturers of decaBDE will phase out this product by 2013.

Although PBDEs are being phased out, other chemicals are taking their place. "We know even less about the newer flame-retardant chemicals that are coming out," Harley said. "There has been even less research on these chemicals."

Dr. George Attia, an associate professor of reproductive endocrinology and infertility at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, said that "there are a lot of other factors that would affect the fertility of these women, not only PBDEs."

Attia thinks these findings need to be proven in prospective studies that can control for the complicated set of factors that affect fertility.

However, Attia does not exclude the possibility these chemicals affect fertility.

"Common sense says avoid this substance, but we don't have data to substantiate that, but common sense will tell you be careful and be aware that there is something out there about this stuff," he said.

The American Chemistry Council, which represents chemical manufacturers, declined to comment on the findings.

SOURCES: Kim Harley, Ph.D., adjunct assistant professor, maternal and child health, and associate director, Center for Children's Environmental Health Research, University of California Berkeley School of Public Health; George Attia, M.D., associate professor, reproductive endocrinology and infertility, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine; Jan. 26, 2010, Environmental Health Perspectives