Flame retardant chemical interferes with IVF, says study

A common flame retardant used in furniture and yoga mats may reduce a woman’s chances of successful pregnancy and birth through in vitro fertilization, according to researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The study examined the impact of organophosphate flame retardants (PFRs), which are used in polyurethane foam in products including upholstered furniture, baby items, and gym mats.

The researchers said they found traces of PFRs in the urine of more than 80% of women tested. Women with higher concentrations had a 10% reduced probability of successful fertilization, 31% reduced probability of implantation of the embryo, and a 41% and 38% decrease in clinical pregnancy and live birth, according to the study.

“These findings suggest that exposure to PFRs may be one of many risk factors for lower reproductive success,” said author Courtney Carignan of Michigan State University. “They also add to the body of evidence indicating a need to reduce the use of these flame retardants and identify safer alternatives.”

One in six couples struggles with infertility, according to the Harvard study.

The research was supported by grants from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.