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Are Everyday Plastics Causing Infertility?

Are Everyday Plastics Causing Infertility?

No matter where we look, there is a piece of plastic vying for our attention. Maybe it is keeping our food wrapped in the refrigerator, or maybe it contains the water we drink all day long, or maybe it is the container we reheat out lunch in at work. Wait! Could all that plastic be affecting your fertility? Maybe, warn some fertility researchers.

In a research study conducted by Dr. David Lindsay, of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Monash University, Melbourne Australia, it was reported that nearly 40% of all infertility cases have no apparent cause – or at least one that is currently detectable. That alarming statistics has sent researchers on a type of scavenger hunt, looking for previously unknown causes of infertility to help correct this ever-growing problem among the world’s childrearing population.

One theory, leading researchers to more study, is the possibility that an increase in plastics use in everyday lifestyles could be a contributing factor, causing an increase of infertility worldwide. After all, most plastics contain toxic chemicals that have been shown to have a negative effect on the body’s immune system and even hormone regulation.

In 2008, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) clearly reported that BPA, a common chemical found in plastics posed no health risks to the general population. Months later, they recanted that statement when further research was unveiled which clearly showed both risk to male and female fertility, as well as the growth of unborn fetuses and growing children.

According to a major study released by the American Society for Reproductive Health, released at their annual meeting in November, 2008, Bisphenol A (more commonly referred to as BPA), can – and does – inhibit the embryos ability to attach to the uterine lining. This failure to implant causes an early onset miscarriage even before the patient knows she is pregnant.

In addition, Dr. Luisine Aghajanova, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, San Francisco claims that “BPA can interfere with the development of uterine cells and the way they change in preparation for possible pregnancy.” This can make it even more difficult for a woman to conceive.

Even more startling are reports that clearly show that BPA can keep cells from dividing properly, which could inhibit pregnancy; cause birth defects, and contribute developmental problems in children.

Exposure to BPA has also been linked to a variety of cancers, attention deficit disorder in both children and adults, and even diabetes.

How Plastics Can Thwart In Vitro Efforts

While BPA exposure can cause infertility among women, there is another concern amongst the fertility industry. It also seems to have a dramatic effect on how successful in vitro fertilization is. In one study, nearly 93% of the women undergoing the treatment had measurable amounts of BPA in their systems as did 81% of their partners. This has led researchers to link a higher level of in vitro fertilization failures among this group than in groups with lower BPA level in their bloodstream. This of course, has left new questions to be studied as to the effects of BPA and other chemicals found in plastics may have on both natural fertility and on the ability to conceive using modern technological methods.

Reducing Your Risks

Although still being studied, the effect of plastics in everyday use on our fertility is causing alarm among the world’s fertility researchers. Until more is known about the phenomenon, many fertility specialists are urging their patients to avoid plastics as much as possible. To help decrease your risk of associated exposure, be sure to:

* Buy meat (free-range or organic) and produce in bulk packages (not wrapped in plastics) and when you do purchase plastic covered foods, remove them as soon as you get home and rewrap them in safer coverings.
* Never store leftovers in plastics containers or bags
* Never reheat foods in plastic containers in the microwave – the heat can release even more toxins into your food
* Never drink from a plastic bottle. Instead, fill a non-BPA bottle with filtered water from your home and carry it with you.

True, it is difficult to isolate yourself from exposure to plastics in a world where plastics are used in just about everything. However, if you can limit your food and beverage exposure to these dangerous chemicals, you can help to keep your own BPA levels low.

For more information on the effects of BPA and other plastics on your overall health and fertility, check out the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences at


Dr. Christine Traxler M.D., OB/GYN
Dr. Christine Traxler M.D., OB/GYN

Dr. Traxler is a University-trained obstetrician/gynecologist, working with patients in Minnesota for over 20 years. She is a professional medical writer; having authored multiple books on pregnancy and childbirth; textbooks and coursework for medical students and other healthcare providers; and has written over 1000 articles on medical, health, and wellness topics.  Dr. Traxler attended the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences and University of Minnesota Medical School,  earning a degree in biochemistry with summa cum laude honors in 1981,  and receiving her Medical Doctorate degree (MD) in 1986.

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  1. Avatar

    Hello, I am trying to price the best filtration system for my home. Can you give me key words besides PBA free to look for while i’m on my mission? Thanks!

    • Dear Michelle,

      Great question! I often see that reverse osmosis systems are touted as the best. I have also seen systems that alkalinize water and ionize water (the benefits I am not all too familiar with).

      Consider research on (where I once briefly read an article about understanding water filters (not the exact title)) or possibly Consumer Reports (neither of which we are affiliated) to see what they have to say about whole-home water filtration systems.

      Happy researching!

  2. Avatar

    1. Would aluminum foil be a good substitute for plastic wrap?
    2. I’ve heard that plastic absorbs more easily into fatty foods. We buy our milk from a local farmer who uses plastic milk jugs. Would pouring it into a different container after we pick it up make any difference?
    3. Should non-BPA plastic be avoided as well?

    • Dear Stephanie,

      Aluminum foil may be okay here and there, but it is best to store food in glass.

      I too know it to be true that plastic leaches more chemicals into fats/fatty foods and when heated. It may be best to be sure the milk you get is cooled before pouring it into the plastic jugs and either being sure it stays cools or transferring it to glass bottles.

      Regarding BPA-free plastic, yes it is believed to better than plastic that is made with BPA. The jury is out as to whether the replacement product used in place of BPA poses health concerns or not.

      Try to choose glass or stainless steal containers when you can.

  3. Avatar

    With the increasing incidence of postpartum hemorrhage worldwide, my question is this, does BPA exposure play a part in altering hormone response immediately postpartum, which may inhibit uterine contractility and hemorrhage?

    • Dear Marg,

      I am not able to speak to the likelihood of bisphenol A contributing to postpartum hemorrhage or the uterus’ inability to properly contract postpartum.

      A brief search of scholarly articles led to much debate about the exposure of pregnant women to BPA and how it may contribute to, or not fetal mortality, birth defects, or reduced birth weight, etc.

      This topic is vast, research is being published regularly and at this time, I am not sure this has been thoroughly studied.

      Best of luck as you seek answers.

  4. Avatar

    I also try to avoid plastic containers because there’s a lot of talk about how they may leak chemicals, like BPA. Actually, I’ve been thinking about switching from plastics to glass for a while. I just came across this new type of water bottle that is 100% glass, not even the cap is plastic. It’s easy to clean the mesh, as it is made of silicone, and it can easily be peeled off and rinsed in a dishwasher. I think the mesh design is pretty awesome, too.

  5. Avatar

    I would like to print out several of your articles related to infertility and menstrual problems to give to my massage clients who struggle with these issues. Your articles are much better at explaining it than my memory and time restraints allow. Do you have a link for “print version”?
    Thank you.

    • Hi Karen,

      We do not have a link for a print version. I sent you a private email with guidelines on use of our information. Be sure to also check your spam folder if it is not in your inbox! Thanks!