Pesticides, Plasticizers Could Reduce Fertility in Female Workers

Exposure to pesticides and plasticizers at work could reduce fertility in women and result in babies with low birth weight, according to European researchers.

A fertility study published online last month by researchers from the Netherlands in the medical journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that women who worked around chemicals used to make plastic more flexible and pesticides were twice as likely to report that it took them six months or longer to get pregnant.

The researchers looked at data collected from 6,000 women with an average age of 30 who became pregnant between 2002 and 2006. They found that 15% of women who tried to get pregnant took six months to do so and 10% took up to a year, which is considered an unusually long time by scientists and doctors.

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About five percent of women also reported that had preterm births and 1% of women gave birth to babies that were premature (born before 34 weeks). They also found that about 5% of babies were born with low birth weight.

Once the researchers accounted for factors such as age, education, ethnicity, smoking, and drinking, they found that exposure to plasticizers at work appeared to more than double the likelihood that a woman would have trouble getting pregnant, and that pesticide exposure increased the risk of low birth weight by nearly 150%.

The researchers cautioned that even then the number of women affected was fairly small, at about 0.7% of women who worked with either substances.

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