How your gym mat could be limiting your fertility
Common fire retardants used in sofas, car seats and gym mats may significantly reduce the chances of having a baby for women struggling to conceive, a study has shown.
Higher levels of exposure to the chemicals, known as phosphorus fire retardants or PFRs, were associated with lower rates of pregnancy and live birth among women undergoing in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment.
On average, the likelihood of these women getting pregnant was reduced by 41pc and of giving birth to a live baby by 38pc.
Fertilisation rates for women with high levels of PFR-derived chemicals in their urine were 10pc lower than those with low levels of the metabolites.
Greater exposure to the flame retardants also reduced the probability of a transferred IVF embryo successfully implanting in the womb by 31pc.
Professor Russ Hauser, a leading member of the team from the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health in the US, said: "Couples undergoing IVF and trying to improve their chances of success by reducing their exposure to environmental chemicals may want to opt for products that are flame-retardant free."
PFRs were introduced more than a decade ago as a "safer" alternative to the flame retardant PentaBDE, previously widely used in polyurethane foam.
However, animal studies have suggested that at certain doses PFRs can disturb the delicate balance of hormones in the body.
Research has also shown that PFRs can migrate out of furniture into indoor air and dust, allowing the chemicals to be inhaled.
Other hormone-disrupting chemicals, such as phthalates and pesticide compounds, have been linked to infertility and poorer reproductive success.
For the new study, scientists analysed urine samples from 211 women undergoing IVF treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital Fertility Centre in Boston between 2005 and 2015.
Urinary metabolites of three specific PFRs - TDCIPP, TPHP, and mono-ITP - were detected in more than 80pc of those tested, the scientists reported in the journal 'Environmental Health Perspectives'.
The fertility success of women with higher and lower concentrations of flame retardant metabolites in their urine was then compared.