How Do Pesticides And Plastics Affect Fertility

Many of you may know that our amazing Dr. Barry Perlman is very passionate about fertility care and the holistic health & wellbeing of his patients. One such passion, is Dr. Perlman’s interest in environmental exposures, especially endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) and their impact on female fertility. In a previous blog and Instagram Live, Dr. P (as we warmly refer to him) breaks down what EDCs are, in which products they are found and their potential impact on fertility. 

Dr. Perlman delves further into Plastics and adds Pesticides to his ongoing concerns in a newly published abstract “Endocrine disruptors and female fertility: a review of pesticide and plasticizer effects” in the American Society of Reproductive Medicine’s (ASRM) publication Fert & Stert. In this notable journal for the reproductive medical community, Dr. Perlman and his colleagues review the data from studies on EDC’s, here’s what they surmised. 

Pesticides & Infertility:

All kinds of pesticides are used in both our agricultural system and in our own homes.  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) list pesticides as “any chemical substance used to regulate, prevent or destroy plants or pests – usually insects, rodents or microorganisms such as fungi and bacteria – or that acts as a nitrogen stabilizer in soil”.1 Even with government restrictions and companies “going green”, over 1 billion pounds (yes, that’s a billion with a “B”) are used annually in the United States. We are exposed in various ways, through the food and water we ingest, the air and dust we inhale, and through our biggest organ on our body – our skin.

So, the question is, how do these pesticides affect our fertility. 

A Tractor spraying fertilizer on green field.

Dr Perlman states “ … interest in environmental exposures and female fertility has led to an increasing number of studies focusing on endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs). Both natural and synthetic compounds have the ability to impact reproductive health by altering the structure and/or function of genes and proteins that facilitate normal ovarian and endometrial functions.”

“Exposure to pesticides has also been shown to impact ART outcomes. Normal ovulation, healthy oocyte quality, and subsequent embryo development are dependent on tightly regulated interactions between the oocyte and its surrounding somatic cells within the follicular microenvironment, which may be very sensitive to contaminant exposures. In women undergoing ART, higher follicular fluid levels were strongly negatively associated with fertilization rate and the proportion of high-quality embryos relative to the number of oocytes retrieved.”2

Dr. P and his cohorts list the studies they reviewed in the abstract & their interpretations of the research in more detail. In 2018, a study on of 325 women undergoing 541 ART cycles that had a diet of high-pesticide residue fruits & vegetables had 18% lower probability of clinical pregnancy and 26% lower probability of live birth.2

Further studies on rats and mice on specific pesticides & chemical compounds are included in Dr. Perlman’s abstract review that deal with pregnancy loss, ovarian resource impact, & estrogen levels.

The report also succinctly outlines studies that showed no negative impacts on fertility and contemplates why that may be.  

Plasticizers Exposures & Your Fertility

Plasticizers are chemical ingredients that are added to promote flexibility and reduce  brittleness. Most common plasticizer we may all know, is BPA – which is, along with its  other chemical “buddies” used in packaging, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, toys, medical devices and even food. Like pesticides, you can be exposed through ingestion, inhalation, and skin absorption.  

Again, the data is mixed on the level of impact on your fertility; however, with the increase of interest by research teams on plasticizers and its bearing on our health & future fertility, more & more is proving negative.   

Dr. Perlman & his co-authors summarized numerous studies that investigate synthetic compounds and their effects on oocyte yield, quality of embryos, risk of miscarriage, and the alteration of hormones – to name a few. The abstract also reviews findings on the impact of these chemicals on ART (Assisted Reproductive Technologies) procedures, like IVF. 

In the end, Dr. Perlman’s abstract concludes that the “data supporting the role of pesticides and plasticizers in female infertility and miscarriage continue to grow as more interest in the field arises. Much of the human literature is based on epidemiological studies lacking mechanistic information, and results are varied, in large part because of methodological differences, populations studied (e.g., fertile vs. infertile couples), and assessment of exposures (e.g., metabolites studied and frequency/timing of assessment). However, the data overwhelmingly support an overall negative effect of these EDCs on female fertility”2

Here at IRMS, we will continue to monitor, study, and amplify new information on EDCs like BPA, phthalates & pesticides. We urge you to minimize your risk during your periconception & prenatal periods by choosing organic produce, fragrance free products, & food containers not made of plastic. A great website for further resources on EDC’s and its impacts on our wellness is the Environmental Working Group. 

If you have any questions about your fertility, Dr. Perlman is happy to consult.  He is available for both virtual & in-person visits out of our Clark & Hoboken, New Jersey offices. You can reach him via our contact form, by calling 732.943.7169, or by reaching out to us on our social media handles listed below.

Barry Perlman, DO earned his medical degree from Rowan University as the valedictorian of the class of 2014. He graduated from Lehigh University with a degree in Molecular Biology. Dr. Perlman completed his residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. Following his time as Chief Resident, Dr. Perlman finished his fellowship in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School. He is an attending physician in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center.


1 Basic Information about Pesticide Ingredients EPA epa.gov

2 Blake Vessa, M.D., Barry Perlman, D.O., Peter G. McGovern, M.D., and Sara S. Morelli, M.D., Ph.D.
Endocrine disruptors and female fertility: a review of pesticide and plasticizer effects

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