The study focused on a group of women scheduled for in vitro fertilization (IVF) between 2004 and 2012. Their urine was studied at the beginning of the treatment and throughout. While urinary phthalates were found in almost all of the women, the results showed that higher levels of certain types of urinary phthalates were associated with a higher risk of implantation failure. (For example, presence of the kind found in vinyl plastic products was associated the most implantation failure). But, the study did not reveal any association between levels of urinary pthalates and rates of fertilization. So, the sperm and the egg joined together regardless of phthalate levels, but in a body containing high levels of certain phthalates, the fertilized egg was less likely to implant.
There are a few things to take from this. First of all, since, as Dr. Irene Souter, one of the authors of the study, reported: "We are all primarily exposed to phthalates through inhalation and ingestion," so when it comes to decreasing our exposure, there's only so much one can do. However, the concerns this study raises about the relationship between phthalate exposure and our endocrine systems are serious business. While it can be nearly impossible to avoid phthalates completely, as they are extremely common ingredients in may household products, it doesn't hurt to keep a watchful eye on the ingredient lists of the products that you use. The more the phthalate story develops, the more alternative options may become available — and we'll definitely keep you posted on the latest. (European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology)
Photographed by Molly DeCoudreaux