ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Climate Change Could Sting Allergy, Asthma Sufferers
Overweight Moms More Likely to Have Asthmatic Kids
Obesity May Raise Kids' Allergy Risk
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
Acupuncture May Help Restore Lost Sense of Smell
Uncover Why Turmeric Helps You Heal
ANIMAL CARE
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
Beware of Dog Bites
BONES & JOINTS
Rheumatoid Arthritis Hits Women Harder
Almost Half of Adults Will Develop Knee Osteoarthritis by 85
Varicose, Spider Veins May Be Inevitable for Some
CANCER
Red Meat No No No But Oily Fish Yes Yes Yes
Vitamin C Shows Promise as Cancer Treatment
Omega-3 May Safely Treat Precancerous Bowel Polyps
CAREGIVING
Most Women Struggle With Rising Health Care Costs
Reduce Suffering, Urge Heart Failure Patients and Caregivers
Organ Donation Policies Vary Among Children's Hospitals
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Support Network May Play Role in Benefits of Drinking
Bad Marriages Harder on Women's Health
Bye, Bye Back Fat?
COSMETIC
Mouse Study Finds Molecule That Tells Hair to Grow
The Acne Drug Accutane More Than Doubles Depression Risk
Get Sugared!.... Its a sweet choice for hair removal
DENTAL, ORAL
Hormones May Be to Blame for Women's Cavity Rates
Mom's Vitamin D Levels Affect Baby's Dental Health
Obesity Boosts Gum Disease Risk
DIABETES
Doctors Urged to Screen Diabetics for Sleep Apnea
Abnormal Heart Rhythm Boosts Death Risk for Diabetics
Coffee, Tea Might Stave Off Diabetes
DIET, NUTRITION
Leafy Greens Top Risky Food List
Regular Yoga May Improve Eating Habits
Folic Acid Might Offer Allergy Relief
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Smog Standards Need Tightening, Activists Say
Where You Live May Affect Your Cancer Diagnosis
Stomach Germ May Protect Against Asthma
EYE CARE, VISION
Drinking Green Tea May Protect Eyes
Kids Who Spend More Time Outdoors Have Better Vision
Action-Filled Video Games Boost Adult Vision
FITNESS
Exercise Key Player in Knee Replacement Recovery
Weak Muscles May Cause 'Runner's Knee'
Vigorous Exercise Can Cut Breast Cancer Risk
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Japanese Herbals May Ease Gastro Woes
Bowel Prep Harder on Women Than Men
Soothing Imagery May Help Rid Some Kids of Stomach Pain
GENERAL HEALTH
Spot light on Dani Antman New Lionheart teacher
Retail Clinics Attracting Those Without Regular Doctors
Laughter Can Boost Heart Health
HEAD & NECK
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
E-Mailing Your Way to Healthier Habits
Magnet Therapy May Ease Hard-to-Treat Depression
Imaging Sheds Light on How Acupuncture Works
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Vigorous Exercise Cuts Stroke Risk for Men, Not Women
Ingredient in Dark Chocolate Could Guard Against Stroke
Women Who Run May Benefit From Extra Folic Acid
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Grapefruit Compound Inhibits Hepatitis C Virus
More Medicinal Uses for Pomegranate
Older Adults May Have Some Immunity to Swine Flu
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Exercise Helps Reduce Falls in Young and Old
6 Million U.S. Kids Lack Enough Vitamin D
Plastics Chemical Tied to Aggression in Young Girls
MEN'S HEALTH
Could Chinese Herb Be a Natural Viagra?
Lots of Sex May Prevent Erectile Dysfunction
Varicose Veins May Mask Larger Problem
MENTAL HEALTH
Daily dose of beet juice promotes brain health in older adults
Vitamin C Protects Some Elderly Men From Bone Loss
Worries About Weight Are Tied to Teen Suicide Tries
PAIN
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Expectant Mom's Exercise Keeps Newborn's Birth Weight Down
Prenatal Stress May Boost Baby's Asthma Risk
Music of Mozart Soothes the Preemie Baby
SENIORS
Fitness Fades Fast After 45
Keeping Mentally Active Seems To Keep The Brain Active
High-Impact Activity May Be Good for Old Bones
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Pay Attention to Signs That Say You're Too Fatigued to Drive
Meditation May Help Put Primary Insomnia to Bed
Exercising Throat Muscles May Relieve Sleep Apnea
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Natural Childbirth Moms More Attuned to Babies' Cry
Air Pollution Slows Women's Marathon Times
Woman in America Are Delaying Motherhood, Study Says
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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