Family

Environmental Factors May Have a Bigger Impact on Fertility than You Think

Breaking Down the Science and Ways to Limit Harmful Exposures

Trying to get pregnant should be an exciting time of planning for the next stage of your life, not one full of doctors visits, constant testing, and worrying about body temperatures. But, if you and your partner are struggling with infertility, you are not alone. According to the CDC about 12% of women have impaired fecundity, which is another way of saying that they are having difficulty getting or staying pregnant (1) [there are no statistics on infertility in men, but there is science showing that overall sperm count is decreasing(14)]. And, the science is clear, environmental factors definitely impact reproductive health - for both men and women. Some of the biggest impacts come from air pollution, pesticides, and endocrine disrupting chemicals (2), which are in all sorts of products and affect the way hormones interact with your body.


Pollution

Pollution has been linked to a couple of different reasons that couples might experience infertility (3). One of the big ones is that men who are exposed to high levels of air pollution have decreased sperm motility two to three months later (4). That means if there is poor air quality now, for the next two to three months, men's sperm could have a tough time moving around, meaning it is less likely to find the egg, and the couple is less likely to get pregnant. Additionally, for women who are exposed to air pollution, there is evidence that they have lower rates of fertility and higher rates of miscarriage (5). The same is true for both women who are able to get pregnant conventionally and those using IVF to get pregnant.

Exposure to pollution is hard to control, but there are a couple of ways you can try to limit your exposure besides voting for and supporting regulations that control air pollution. One way is to purchase an air purifier that targets indoor air pollution. Another is to watch air quality alerts (you can do that right in your standard weather app) and stay inside on particularly bad days.

Pesticides

This is another one that affects both men and women. Many studies have looked at people who regularly come into contact with pesticides because they are applying them, most often for their jobs. These studies have found that pesticides change hormone levels causing lower sperm rates and lessened sperm quality in men (6) and adding oxidative stress for women. This could mean they experience implantation difficulties and spontaneous abortions to name a just a few issues (7). But this doesn't mean that those who don't work with pesticides are completely in the clear. Research has also found that for women who are undergoing IVF, eating fruits and veggies that are known to have high levels of pesticides can reduce their chances of getting pregnant and having a healthy baby (8).

We have some tips to help you prioritize which produce to buy organic, which can help you avoid high levels of pesticides on the food you eat. There are even organic wine and cereal options for those nights when you're too tired to throw together a meal.

Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals

Now, this is kind of a catch-all category. It includes any substances that impact the way your endocrine system works. This typically means that the substances impact the levels of different hormones because these chemicals interfere with how your cells normally deal with hormones (9). For example, some chemicals like BPA and phthalates are known to mimic estrogen and can screw up your natural estrogen levels. If you are trying to get pregnant, and have low levels of (naturally occurring) estrogen but high levels of imitation estrogen (like BPA and phthalates), then your body won't have the true estrogen it needs to support processes like ovulation or the thickening of the lining of the uterus for implantation (10).

There are many other hormones beside estrogen associated with your endocrine system that can be affected by these substances. This means that both men and women are likely to have altered hormone levels that can affect fertility because of EDCs. While BPA and phthalates (both found in plastics) are endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) (11), pesticides and pollution are also considered EDCs. Perfluorinated chemicals, also referred to as PFAS chemicals, also act as EDCs and can impact fertility (12, 13). One other compound to consider is flame retardants. They are added to many everyday items like couches, carpet pads, and electronics, but because of how they are added they easily escape into household dust and into our bodies, where they can cause low rates of fertilization, implantation, and interfere with a successful pregnancy (15).

A couple of easy ways to limit the amount of EDCs you come into contact with every day are to invest in glass or stainless steel food storage containers and water bottles, look for personal care products that are "fragrance-free," ditch the non-stick cookware, and take your shoes off at the door.

While it may feel like these things are everywhere, small changes to your daily routine can make a big difference. Even if you just try to make one change, it could affect your fertility and the health of your future child.


References

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/infertility.htm
  2. https://www.fertstert.org/article/S0015-0282(18)30440-0/fulltext#sec6.3 Environment and Infertility: Its Role in Assisted Reproductive Technologies, Linda C. Giudice, M.D., Ph.D.
  3. https://ehjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12940-017-0291-8#Sec5
  4. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0015028208047729
  5. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0015028216625487
  6. http://www.ijrcog.org/index.php/ijrcog/article/view/2490/2633
  7. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/15569543.2018.1474926?scroll=top&needAccess=true
  8. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/article-abstract/2659557
  9. https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/endocrine/index.cfm
  10. http://www.clearblue.com/menstrual-cycles-and-ovulation
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21155623
  12. https://academic.oup.com/humrep/article/30/3/701/661287
  13. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10815-011-9548-2
  14. https://academic.oup.com/humupd/article-abstract/23/6/646/4035689?redirectedFrom=fulltext
  15. https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/doi/10.1289/ehp1021
Roundups

Non-Toxic Bathroom Cleaners

products you can buy to make your bathroom squeaky clean without dangerous fumes

Nobody likes doing it, but it's got to be done! Cleaning the bathroom doesn't have to be gross or involve lots of chemicals with dangerous fumes that leave your eyes teary and your head hurting. You can use an all purpose cleaner on most surfaces in the bathroom, but sometimes you need a little extra oomph to get rid of hard water stains and mold or mildew. Every now and then we also find ourselves needing to clear the drains too! We checked out all the lists and figured out which bathroom cleaning products are the safest and effective.

In addition to these products, we also love using a simple non-toxic all purpose cleaner and have lots of DIY cleaner recipes for getting your bathroom squeaky clean.

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Healthy eating should be about more than just healthy ingredients! While there are many different specific diets, most definitions of healthy eating involve choosing fresh, nutrient-dense whole foods that provide maximal nutritional benefits. Refined grains, sugar, vegetable oils, and other unhealthy ingredients are left off the plate. But if healthy ingredients become contaminated with harmful chemicals, are they really healthy? It is time for healthy eating to incorporate more than just ingredients. Healthy eating should also include how the food is packaged and what materials the food comes into contact with while it is being processed, cooked, and stored.
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Roundups

The Best Non-Toxic Dish Soaps

Healthy, safe, and effective grease-cutting dish soap power

Updated for 2021!

Get your dishes clean without worrying about the chemicals in your dish soap. We rounded up the top 6 dish soaps without toxic chemicals or preservatives that are well-reviewed and easily available. You're welcome! We've had some questions about whether parents need a separate soap specifically for bottles and dishes. With these 6 picks, you can be rest assured that they will work well on your dinner plates but are also safe enough for baby bottles and toddler dishes. Also, for all the dishes you choose not to hand wash, take a peek at our dishwasher detergent roundup.

a) Attitude Dishwashing Liquid

b) Aunt Fannie's Microcosmic Probiotic Power Dish Soap

c) Better Life Dish Soap

d) ECOS Dishmate Dish Liquid

e) Common Good dish soap

f) Cleancult liquid dish soap

g) Trader Joe's Dish Soap Lavender Tea Tree


We rely on EWG's consumer databases, the Think Dirty App, and GoodGuide in addition to consumer reviews and widespread availability of products to generate these recommendations. Learn more on our methodology page.

*Because Health is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program so that when you click through our Amazon links, a percentage of the proceeds from your purchases will go to Because Health. We encourage you to shop locally, but if you do buy online buying through our links will help us continue the critical environmental health education work we do. Our participation does not influence our product recommendations. To read more about how we recommend products, go to our methodology page.

Roundups

Eco-Friendly and Reusable Gift Wrapping Ideas

Spread holiday cheer without creating waste!

Since this is a safe space we can admit that one of the best parts about the holidays is the presents, right? But the amount of wrapping paper we go through every year is just insane... and most of it isn't even recyclable! Unless "recyclable" is specifically mentioned on the label, you'll have to throw used wrapping paper into the trash. And sometimes, we could do without that mountain of used wrapping paper after presents have been opened, even if it is the recyclable kind.
That's why we wanted to find the best wrapping options that could actually be recycled or reused year to year! Check out these great alternatives to tranditonal wrapping paper!


a) 2 Pieces Christmas Canvas Tote Bags Buffalo Plaid Check Shopping Bags

b) joywrap

c) Hallmark Recyclable Kraft Wrapping Paper

d) Eco-Friendly Reversible Wrapping Paper

e) Hallmark Reusable Fabric Gift Wrap

f) Hallmark Black and Red Drawstring Gift Bag Set


g) Furoshiki Reusable Gift Wrapping Cloth


h) Organic Cotton Reusable Gift Wrap (Set of 3)

i) Brown Kraft Paper Jumbo Roll

Looking for non-toxic, sustainable, and fun gifts for your home chef? We created a gift guide this year for those people on your list who love cooking and hosting. Whether it's elaborate dinner parties or weeknight meals, these gifts are sure to bring some joys in the new year. We looked for gifts that avoided waste (like a stovetop popcorn maker), or that avoided harmful chemicals (like a cast iron skillet), or that could bring a little fun into the kitchen (like these fabulous cloth napkins).

This year, we have highlighted many products by many Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) owned/founded brands. Buying from these brands is a great way to support economic opportunities in BIPOC communities and celebrates diversity in the sustainability space. Additionally, since climate change is an urgent issue with so many health impacts, we are also highlighting brands that are Climate Neutral certified. That means that the brand has committed to measure, offset, and reduce the carbon they emit. We believe that consumers and companies must work together to embrace and make true commitments to diversity and sustainability. Look no further for the ultimate gift guide!

$: Under $50

Handheld milk frother

This stainless steel milk frother is the perfect way to warm up your milk (or milk alternative) without having to sacrifice counter space! Whether you're drinking coffee or matcha, this it the perfect tool to take things up a notch.

Vegetable Kingdom: The Abundant World of Vegan Recipes (BIPOC brand)

Want to eat less meat, but don't know how to make vegetable dishes stand out? Step up your cooking game with delicious recipes from this unique cookbook from Bryant Terry. Bryant is renowned for his activism and efforts to create a healthy, equitable, and sustainable food system, so this cookbook is right up our alley.

Mother Grains: Recipes for the Grain Revolution (BIPOC brand)

Looking to up your whole grain intake? Expand your baking skills with Mother Grains: Recipes for the Grain Revolution. You'll be amazed how a simple cookie can change texture and flavor based on the flours you use. Learn about the world of ancient grains like buckwheat, sorghum, rye, barley, and heirloom wheat and bake some delicious treats.

GreenLife Bakeware Healthy Ceramic Nonstick, Muffin Pan

This ceramic baking pan by GreenLife is non-stick without harmful chemicals and comes in a bunch of cute colors. Weekend muffins are calling you!

Great Northern Popcorn Original Stainless Steel Stove Top Popcorn Popper

Microwave popcorn is expensive and the bags are coated in Teflon like chemicals, but it's so convenient. Enter this amazing popcorn maker. You'll never look at microwaved popcorn the same way after you use this Great Northern stovetop popcorn popper! It's stainless steel body perfectly cooks kernels to tasty perfection.

Heath Ceramics large coffee mug

Elevate your morning coffee with this beautifully crafted mug from Heath Ceramics. It comes in many lead-free glazes and is as sturdy as it is beautiful.

$ $: Between $50-100

Hamilton Beach Belgian Waffle Maker

Sunday brunch just got so much better with this waffle maker by Hamilton Beach. Most waffle makers use a Teflon-like coating in their waffle makers, but this waffle maker uses a ceramic non-stick. It's really easy to use and the ceramic grids pop out for easy cleaning.

Diaspora Co. Single-Origin Spices (BIPOC brand)

Spices can make or break a dish, which is why we love upgrading our spice drawer with this set of single origin spices from Diaspora. We love that they pay a living wage to partner farmers and their partner model allows them to provide quality control that results in fresher, more delicious spices. That also means that they can also better control potential contamination and test for lead contamination. They are also working on organic certification for their partner farms.

Emile Henry Deep Food Storage Bowl

Who says food storage has to be boring? Beauty meets function with this deep food storage bowl by Emile Henry. The cork top serves as a fruit bowl, while the lower level with vents and darkness acts as a mini pantry to store root vegetables and onions.

Siafu Home Congolese Napkins

The scalloped edge and fun pattern of these napkins make them a great hostess gift! These are screen printed by hand in Kenya and are a great way to add some color to your table.

$ $ $: Over $100

Graf Lantz Felt Placemats

These sturdy place mats will protect your table from the messiest of eaters! The merino wool material is naturally water and odor resistant, and also offers amazing thermal protection.

Olivewood Serving Board

These hand-carved cheese boards are made from a single piece of olivewood, which means no glues or adhesives are added to the wood. They are the perfect backdrop to your next charcuterie board.

East Fork Serving Bowl (Climate Neutral certified)

This handmade pottery serving bowl from East Fork is perfect for all your serving need- whether it's for movie night popcorn or a salad at a dinner party for 10!

Brightland Olive Oil Duo (BIPOC brand)

There's a reason you've seen Brightland all over social, it's high quality olive oil and beautiful bottle make it a star! The Duo set is the perfect way to try two of their most popular flavors! The olives come from a family-run California farm that does not use pesticides and is committed to organic practices.

Le Creuset Cast Iron Skillet

Le Creuset is known for it's quality and beautiful color choices and this enameled cast iron skillet is no exception! This pan will last you a lifetime and is naturally non-stick enough for scrambles and fried eggs. No Teflon chemicals needed.

Fellow coffee Pour Over Coffee and Electric Kettle

This Fellow electric kettle and pour over set are perfect companions for your coffee! These products don't contain any plastic and will make you feel like a certified barista.

Life

Artificial or Real Christmas Tree? What's better for you and the environment.

What toxic chemicals are in artificial Christmas trees and tips for how to stay safe

Artificial Christmas trees are becoming increasingly popular for families. They're seen as being convenient since they don't shed needles and can be reused year after year. Some even come with lights already on them! But is the convenience of artificial Christmas trees worth it? We break down the science and the pros and cons of artificial Christmas trees and farm grown real Christmas trees to help you have a healthy and sustainable Christmas!

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Life

Buying holiday decorations? Here's what you should know

Don't let these chemicals ruin your holiday cheer

You may need to be careful rockin' around the Christmas tree this year! Why you ask? Well, there might be some unexpected chemicals in that holly jolly decoration above your head. Holiday decorations can bring great cheer, but sometimes they can contain an unwanted surprise. Some decorations may be made with toxic chemicals - keep a look out for the ones below!
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