15 Effects of Environmental Chemicals and Metals on Reproductive System

The chemical compound that presents in environmental media such as air, water, soil and even consumer product is called environmental chemicals. The risk of these chemicals enter human body system is very high, studies found that environmental chemicals and their metabolites can even be measured in urine, blood, breast milk and other human body fluids.

The subgroup of this chemicals include :

  • Acrylamide
  • Cotinine
  • N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide (DEET)
  • Dioxin-Like Chemicals
  • Disinfection By-Products (Trihalomethanes)
  • Environmental Phenols (Benzophenone-3, Bisphenol A, Triclosan, 4-tert-Octylphenol)
  • Fungicides and Herbicides
  • Metals (Arsenic, Cadmium, Lead, Mercury)
  • Insecticides and Pesticides (chemicals found in pesticides)
  • NNAL (4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanol)
  • Non-Dioxin-Like Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)
  • Parabens
  • Perchlorate
  • Perflourochemicals (PFCs)
  • Phthalates (Benzylbutyl Phthalate, Di-2-ethylhexyl Phthalate, Dicyclohexyl Phthalate, Diethyl Phthalate, Di-isononyl Phthalate, Dimethyl Phthalate, Di-n-butyl Phthalate/Di-isobutyl Phthalate, Di-n-octyl Phthalate)
  • Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs) and Polybrominated biphenyl (PBB)
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs)
  • Volatile Organic Compounds / VOCs (Benzene3, Methyl tert-Butyl Ether (MTBE), Styrene)

The impact of environmental chemicals and their processes to human body and activity is studied in environmental chemistry. The effect can be acute (short-term) or chronic (long-term) and contamination that left untreated will spread into local or even global scale. The local scale includes polluted river because of chemical waste, and air pollution in an industrial site.

Meanwhile, the global scale example is global warming. these harmful effects usually can’t be detected early and only appear at a later date.

The human reproductive system is a delicate function that can be easily affected by environmental chemicals. This system plays a vital role in the survival of the species, but many scientists dispute that the reproductive system is among the most important systems in the entire body.

The bad effects that can be caused by chemicals exposure to the human reproductive system are :

Meanwhile, we need to be aware of effects of environmental chemicals and metals on the reproductive system.

1. Altered sexual behavior

Arsenic is a common environmental metal used in wide sectors like medical, agricultural and military. There was a history of groundwater that contaminated with arsenic. Arsenic will disturb the synthesis of testosterone that plays important role in male reproductive.

Low testosterone level will later make them feel excessively fatigued, weaker, depressed, and that they have lost their sex drive. The similar effect can also be found in another metal such as cadmium and lead. You may also read about List of Chemicals Known to Cause Cancer or Reproductive Toxicity

2. Testicular Atrophy

Acrylamide is a polymer that used in water treatment. There is a possible connection between acrylamide and male fertility as the study has found that ingesting this chemical will gradually affect male testicular by shrinking its size. this condition is also known as testicular atrophy, besides the notable size changing this condition may also be followed by loss of function.

Other chemicals such as cadmium and arsenic can also disrupt male testicular function that can be shown by reduced muscle mass and spermatogenesis alteration.

3. Altered puberty onset

There are many harmful effects of environmental chemicals and metals on the reproductive system. Toddler and pre-teens that are exposed to chemical or metal in prolonged time will be more likely shown the effects later in life.

The chemical will alter the developmental of several organs and the possible signs are late puberty, menstrual disorders, and reduced semen quality. Agents that can cause these problems are organic solvents that can be found in painting, printing, decreasing and shoe-making industry.  

4. Altered menopause onset

Menopause is a normal aging condition in women where ovaries stop releasing eggs and most of its hormones. It normally happens around age 50. However in some cases, premature or early menopause could happen because of certain things. environmental chemicals are also known playing a big role in the human endocrine system.

Those chemicals typically found in personal care products, makeup, and household items. Women with a high level of contamination could have two to four years early menopause. Beside early menopause, environmental chemicals could also decline ovarian function.

5. Delayed conception

Solvents are known as a carcinogenic. A direct inhalation can cause a sudden loss of consciousness and respiratory problem. The types that studied are benzene, carbon disulfide, glycol ethers and acetates is associated with delayed conception and other reproductive system problems.

6. Altered length of pregnancy

Human gestation normally happens a bit more than 9 months. Gestational age is very important for fetal development. Shorten pregnancy length could be fatal to both mother and baby. Arsenic contamination could easily found in drinking water. A pregnant mom that are exposed to arsenic has risks of premature delivery, spontaneous abortion, and stillbirth.

7. Embryo / Fetal developmental disorder

Baby’s chromosomal abnormalities or gene mutations can be happened by chemical exposure to early pregnant mom. Recent studies found that the disruption can happen as early as before the conception to egg or cement cells. Beside gene mutations, fetal development is also associated with metal contamination such as arsenic. However, the disorder is expressed not by body malformation but behavioral.

8. Perinatal Mortality

DEET is an insecticide used widely as a mosquito repellent in the household. DEET exposure may increase the chance of perinatal mortality. Perinatal mortality is a death of the live-born baby within the first week after being born. This incident can happen because the baby born before it’s due. However, the severity of DEET effect on the perinatal mortality depends on the level exposure and individual sensitivity.

9. Miscarriage

Miscarriage can happen if the exposure occurs during the first trimester of the pregnancy. The toxic in chemical can disturb the embryo development.

Thus, there are many harmful effects of environmental chemicals and metals on reproductive system. So, we need to take care and aware on using those Harmful Chemicals in the Environment to save a life. 

Awareness about Environmental Chemicals and Its Bad Effects

To reduce or avoid the harmful effects of environmental chemicals and metals on reproductive system. and metal to our body, it’s important to become educated and take the following precautions:

  1. Check any plant-based product that you used or eat since plants are prone to residual herbicide and pesticide
  2. Avoid products that contains harmful chemicals such as fragrance, parabens, sodium lauryl sulfates, Triclosan, phthalates, formaldehyde, synthetic musks, nitrosamines, aluminum, iron, and lead. (List of Chemicals in Shampoo)
  3. Pay attention to water supply, whether it for your own consumption or your livestock (fish, chicken, cow) consumption since many chemical drainage can be found on water. (List of organic water pollutants)
  4. Avoid heating food in plastic containers in the microwave. Instead, use glass.
  5. Choose skin care, personal care and makeup brands that use safe recyclable plastics.
  6. Learn more about the ingredients in cosmetics, and personal care they use every day.

Meanwhile, there are some harmful effects of environmental chemicals and metals on reproductive system. We need to be aware of the Harmful Chemicals in the Environment that may kill us slowly.