Chemical agents are to be found in pesticides, cosmetic products, toys and even in food containers. Apparently, they can lead to the appearance of uterine fibroids and endometriosis.

A study conducted by a team of researchers at Langone Medical Center, New York University, and published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinological Metabolism revealed that chemical exposure of the endocrine system can indeed lead to such pathologies of the reproductive system. According to the researchers, based on data from a number of European cohorts, 20-39% of uterine fibroid and endometriosis cases result from chemical exposure. Such a problem clearly affects a woman’s reproductive health but also entails remarkable costs, both direct (such as hospitalisation) and indirect costs (loss of productivity). Suffice it to think that “in 2010 alone, 56,700 surgeries were carried out to remove fibroids and 145,000 cases of endometriosis in women aged between 20 and 44 are linked to exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals”, according to the authors of the study.

“An increasing number of scientific studies show that reproductive health is affected by the so-called endocrine disruptors, which are chemical agents, both natural and synthetic, found in the environment and that mimic, interfere or block an individual’s normal hormonal activity. The major endocrine disruptors that cause such issues are bisphenol A and phthalates”, says embryologist and researcher Gemma Fabbozzi.

“BPA has been shown to migrate from the tools in which it is present to food, when they make contact”. Similar to estrogens, BPA can interact with the receptors of these hormones, stimulate them and alter their production. Its adverse effect on ovaries and on the uterus have been confirmed by both epidemiological models and in-vivo and in-vitro studies conducted on animal models. Furthermore, a number of studies have shed light on the fact that BPA might play a relevant role in the pathogenesis of endometriosis and of the polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), both major causes of female infertility. Phthalates are the other threat: these artificial chemical substances are used in many consumer items, including personal care products, and are also used as bulking agents in drugs and food supplements.

Scientific evidence therefore confirms the negative effects of the exposure to chemical and harmful agents such as BPA and phthalates, but the good news is that we can change our lifestyle and reduce our chemical exposure.

Here are some tips:

1) Make your kitchen plastic-free: eliminate plastic food containers, dishes, glasses, ladles and other items, especially the ones that come into direct contact with heat sources.

2) Avoid washing plastic items with aggressive detergents or very hot water, for it increases the probability that toxic chemical substances will be released.

3) Be careful with take-away food from pizzerias/deli shops that deliver food in plastic containers. Studies have shown that the people who often eat this type of food have a higher BPA level in their blood.

4) Reduce consumption of canned food. BPA is present in the coating of the can and the more the food is acid, the more likely it is for BPA to migrate to the food itself.

5) Bear in mind that thermal paper such as receipts, fax sheets, etc are yet another source of BPA, so make sure you wash your hands after you touch them.

6) Be careful with soft plastic items: table mats, physical exercise mats, food packaged in plastic film and gloves are all possible vehicles that release phthalates in the air.