The impact of toxins on fertility

Fertility. It’s essential to our survival on the planet. Naturally, it’s not something we tend to worry about unless it becomes a challenge to conceive.

But should we be more worried?

A recent body of research has emerged to reveal that, yes, we should be concerned about the reproductive health of not only ourselves, but of future generations. Coined the ‘transgernational toxicity effect’, it showcases the potential effects of not only chemical exposure from mum to baby, but from mum, baby, and beyond. Very interesting stuff.

When we hear the word ‘chemical’, images of poison, acid, or something more extreme may come to mind. But what this form of toxicity is truly referring to is the chemicals found in the products we come in contact with on a regular basis.

Things like sunscreen, moisturiser, bug spray, cleaning products, plastics, air freshener, laundry detergent, as well as the pesticides that are sprayed on conventional vegetation. Truth is, most governments, including Australia, are not regulating these ingredients or keeping an eye on the long-term impacts of their consumption.

Thanks to the Environmental Working Group, we’re learning more about just that. The study of transgenerational toxicity is showing us that a mum’s exposure to a host of daily chemicals has the potential of not only negatively impacting her DNA, but also the genetic makeup and reproductive health of her children and her children’s children.

The Environmental Working Group writes:

“New research shows that alterations in the pattern of [epigenetic] markers for sperm or egg cells can be passed down from one generation to the next.”

Typically those markers are reset — fresh life, fresh start, fresh genetic makeup— with each generation. However, studies are now showing the likelihood of genetic pattern shifts before a child is even a born.

So how does it relate to fertility? Here are the key highlights from the study…

The study

Two super smart guys, Mohan Manikkan and Michael Skinner, at Washington State University in the United States helped establish ‘transgenerational toxicity’ by showing that the “effects of toxic chemicals can extend even to third generation offspring” through one key study of pregnant rats. They exposed them to a mixture of chemicals including bug repellants, plastic additives, and jet fuel — the stuff we’re exposed to quite often as humans — and then bred two generations of offspring that were NOT exposed to these chemicals.

The findings

Even without direct exposure, the third-generation rats had damaged reproductive systems! The females experienced “early onset puberty and had fewer developed eggs in their ovaries,” and the males “had higher levels of dead sperm.” Not only that, but a similar study followed to reveal a “50% increased risk of obesity for the unexposed great grandchildren of the great grandparents exposed to the banned pesticide DDT during pregnancy.” Researchers found altered epigenetic markers in those third generation rats as well.

The indications

The Indications While there are very few studies of this kind on humans, this groundbreaking study suggests that multi-generational toxicity is a potential concern, especially as it relates to reproductive health. “Researchers have raised the possibility that [this kind of toxicity] could be linked to an increase in infertility, developmental problems, and pediatric cancers.”

If you’re feeling ready to toss out your bug spray, or any products with chemicals in them right this second, we don’t blame you. But there is no need to panic!

The silver lining in this alarming information is that YOU can absolutely reduce the amount of chemicals you, your children, and your loved ones are exposed to every day. All you have to do is choose cleaner food and products that are made of pure, natural ingredients — from your dinner plate to your skincare routine to your baby care to your household cleaners. Doing so will be one huge step in the right direction to ensure the health of your family, now into the future.

And if you’re curious, here is a list of the most harmful chemicals to avoid in your personal care and cleaning products when shopping online and in stores.

  • Parabens: found in skin care products like deodorant, moisturisers, and cosmetics.
  • Synthetic colours: found in shampoos, soaps, and food colouring.
  • Fragrance: found almost anything with a scent (shampoos, soaps, cleaning products, etc.)
  • Phthalates: found in nail polish, perfumes, lotions, and anything with plastic.
  • Triclosan: found primarily in antibacterial soaps and gels
  • Sodium Laurel Sulfate: found in anything that builds a soapy lather.
  • Formaldehyde: found in cosmetics products to prevent bacterial growth.
  • Toluene: found in nail polish, hair treatments, and bleaching products.
  • Propylene Glycol: found in sunscreen, makeup, moisturisers, and hair sprays.
  • PABA: found in most sunscreens to absorb ultraviolet light.

Knowledge is power. The savvier you become and the more labels you read, the easier it will become to protect yourself, your baby, and future generations from any harm.

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Blair Badenhop

Blair is a wellness copywriter and the host of the Brand Yourself podcast. She’s passionate about living a healthy and conscious lifestyle - taking care of her body, mind and heart; practicing kindness and compassion; and being mindful of her impact on people’s lives and the planet.

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