ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Herbal Remedy Could Halt Peanut Allergy
Climate Change Could Sting Allergy, Asthma Sufferers
Using Music and Sports to Improve Kids' Asthma
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Acupuncture Cuts Dry Mouth in Cancer Patients
U.S. Spends Billions On Alternative Medicine
No Verdict Yet on Grape Seed Extract vs. Breast Cancer
ANIMAL CARE
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
Safe Toys for Dogs
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
BONES & JOINTS
Frankincense Provides Relief for Osteoarthritis
Scientists ID New Genes Tied to Crohn's Disease
Varicose, Spider Veins May Be Inevitable for Some
CANCER
Gene Studies Reveal Cancer's Secrets
HPV Vaccine Has Higher Allergic Reaction Rate
Study Cites Gains in Gall Bladder Cancer Treatment
CAREGIVING
Memory Loss Help from Brain Supplement Prevagen
Mom's Smoking May Lead to SIDS
Recession Scrambling Health Spending in U.S.
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Secondhand Smoke Quickly Affects Blood Vessels
Vitamins Do Older Women Little Good
Migraines in Pregnancy Boost Vascular Risks
COSMETIC
What to Do If You Have Unsightly Veins
Get Sugared!.... Its a sweet choice for hair removal
Science May Banish Bad Hair Days
DENTAL, ORAL
Mom's Vitamin D Levels Affect Baby's Dental Health
Rheumatoid Arthritis May Harm Gums
Gum Disease Treatment Doesn't Cut Preterm Birth Risk
DIABETES
Abnormal Heart Rhythm Boosts Death Risk for Diabetics
Doctors Urged to Screen Diabetics for Sleep Apnea
Red-Grape Compound May Improve Diabetes
DIET, NUTRITION
Diet, Exercise May Slow Kidney Disease Progression
Holiday Eating Without the Guilt -- or the Pounds
Pesticides on Produce Tied to ADHD in Children
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
City Kids Find the Breathin' Is Easier Elsewhere
Radiation Exposure Linked to Aggressive Thyroid Cancers
Home Renovations by Affluent Families Can Unleash Lead Threat
EYE CARE, VISION
Impotence Drugs Don't Harm Vision: Study
Diabetic Hispanics Missing Out on Eye Exams
Too Much Sun, Too Few Antioxidants Spell Eye Trouble
FITNESS
Want to Stop Cancer? You Can, Experts Say
'Safe' Ozone Levels May Not Be for Some
Walking Golf Course Affects Swing, Performance
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Japanese Herbals May Ease Gastro Woes
Peppermint Oil, Fiber Can Fight Irritable Bowel
New Yogurt May Ease Stomach Ulcers
GENERAL HEALTH
Health Gains From Lowered Smoking Rates in Jeopardy
Healthy Living Adds Years to Life
Family Medicine Cabinet Top Source Of Kid's Poisonings
HEAD & NECK
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Study Suggests Link Between Cell Phones and Brain Tumors
Imaging Sheds Light on How Acupuncture Works
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
After a Stroke, Light Exercise Gets Hands, Arms Working Again
More Steps a Day Lead to Better Health
Fatty Fish May Cut Heart Failure Risk in Men
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Surgical Masks Could Prevent Flu, Maybe
Older Adults May Have Some Immunity to Swine Flu
Swine Flu Closes Three Schools in NYC
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Quick Orthopedic Repair Can Save Young Shoulders
Frequent Feedings May Be Making Babies Fat
Standard IQ Test May Underestimate People With Autism
MEN'S HEALTH
Whole Grains, Bran May Fight Hypertension in Men
Exercise May Prevent Prostate Cancer: Study Shows
Varicose Veins May Mask Larger Problem
MENTAL HEALTH
The Acne Drug Accutane More Than Doubles Depression Risk
Meditation May Boost College Students' Learning
Vitamin C Protects Some Elderly Men From Bone Loss
PAIN
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
Exercise Boosts Bone Density in Breast-Feeding Moms
Mom's Extra Pregnancy Pounds May Raise Child's Heart Risks
SENIORS
Many Cancer Survivors Don't Adopt Healthy Lifestyle
High-Impact Activity May Be Good for Old Bones
Tai Chi and Qigong Offer Many Health Benefits: Review
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Pay Attention to Signs That Say You're Too Fatigued to Drive
Meditation May Help Put Primary Insomnia to Bed
Better Sleep, Grades Seem to Go Up
WOMEN'S HEALTH
For Women, Moderate Midlife Drinking Linked to Healthier Old Age
Calcium Helps Ward Off Colon Cancer
Exercise, Weight Control May Keep Fibromyalgia at Bay
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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