An alert could be issued at the global level on the decrease in human fertility. This affects industrialized countries in particular, and many couples having difficulty having a child turn to preconception consultations, fertility specialists and assisted reproduction clinics. What if a better quality of our daily environment would improve fertility?
It is now accepted by many scientific studies that exposure to chemicals contributes significantly to reproductive problems. However, we are daily exposed to several hundred chemical substances that can have effects on our health. Health authorities at the European level have established that some of these substances can affect human reproduction.
What is the definition of a reprotoxic?
A reprotoxic substance is a chemical or mixture of chemicals that affects the reproduction of men and women or induces effects on embryonic, fetal and infant development.
What are the health effects of reprotoxics?
Substances classified as reprotoxic can cause fertility problems through different mechanisms such as spermatogenesis (sperm formation), nidation (implantation of the embryo), libido, altered hormone levels and altered menstrual cycles.
What are the critical periods of exposure to reprotoxics?
The effects of reprotoxics occur before childbearing, during pregnancy and during the first years of a child's life.
This is the concept of the first 1000 days during which it is critical to avoid exposure to reprotoxics: 3 months before fertilisation, 9 months of pregnancy and 24 months of the child's life.
How are we exposed to reprotoxics in our daily lives?
Very often we don't realise that many reprotoxic chemicals are omnipresent in our daily lives. They are absorbed into the body mainly through the water and food we consume, contact with the skin and the air we breathe.
As we spend on average 80% of our time in buildings, whether housing or professional premises (office, open-space, workshop...), indoor air pollution is a major source of exposure to reprotoxics.
In the workplace, users are often unaware of their presence in the chemicals they handle or are exposed to in the working environment. It is up to occupational medicine to inform them if it has the necessary information, such as the composition of the chemicals to which the person is exposed in the workplace.
What are the most common reprotoxics?
The main reprotoxics identified by the European Union are :
- Solvents such as toluene, glycol ethers and glycol ether acetates
- Plastic additives such as phthalates
- Flame retardants such as organophosphates
- Heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, mercury, etc.
- Pesticides such as fungicides (cyproconazole, epoxiconazole), insectcides (thiacloprid) and herbicides (linuron).
How to prevent exposure to reprotoxics
The indoor environment is a major source of exposure to reprotoxic substances, in particular through plasticisers from the phthalate family, several of which are now classified as substances of very high concern (SVHC) by the European Union.
These chemicals account for a very significant proportion of the pollution of the air we breathe in our homes and workplaces. It is therefore important to limit the presence of plastics in our daily lives (food, furniture, flooring...).
Only a laboratory analysis of an air and dust sample allows us to identify reprotoxic pollutants with certainty and to measure pollution levels accurately in order to assess the health risks for the occupants.
The results of this analysis can be used to guide research to identify emission sources that can then be eliminated or reduced to improve indoor air quality.
Air treatment is also a solution to limit exposure to reprotoxics. The technologies used in the air purifier must make it possible to trap or destroy volatile organic compounds and fine dust.
- List of chemicals classified as CMR, www.inrs.fr.
- European Chemical Agency, https://echa.europa.eu/
- European Agency for Safety and Health, https://osha.europa.eu/