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Exposure to Agricultural Pesticides Linked to Female Infertility
(Beyond Pesticides, September 5, 2003) According to the Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter, a recent study released September 3 shows that women who handle pesticides or fungicides in the two-year period before trying to have a baby significantly increase their chances of infertility. The researchers at Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation found that infertile women were 27 more times likely to have mixed and applied such chemicals than women who had become pregnant, according to chief researcher Anne Greenlee.

The exposure to many farm chemicals can affect a woman's production of eggs and how they mature and can influence whether an embryo can implant. "Women contemplating pregnancy and who may be exposed to pesticides on the job should consider precautions such as respirators, gloves and protective clothing to reduce unintentional exposures," Dr. Greenlee told the Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter.

The study, which began in 1997, involved 644 women ages 18 to 35, mostly from central Wisconsin, who had either sought treatment at Marshfield Clinic for infertility or sought prenatal care because they were in their first trimester of pregnancy and had conceived in less than 12 months of trying. The study included 233 women who lived on a farm, ranch or a rural home, she said. The rest lived in cities or villages. About 100 women in the study handled pesticides or fungicides, some in growing plants or gardens. For the two years before a couple began trying to conceive a child, the study identified mixing and applying herbicides and using fungicides as an occupational risk to becoming pregnant.

The study also found the following three lifestyle choices played a role: steadily gaining weight during adult life, which can affect the cycling of female hormones; exposure to passive cigarette smoke one to five hours a week, which can influence egg quality and whether the egg can be fertilized; and, having a male partner older than 41, which can affect sperm and semen quality.

The entire story is available at the Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter website. The abstract is available at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
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