Toxic ‘forever chemicals’ linked to infertility, according to new study

by Jacob Fuller

Lauren Dempsey, MS in Biomedicine and Law, RN, FISM News 

A new study published in Science of the Total Environment found that dangerous “forever chemicals” may be the root cause of infertility struggles for many women.

Researchers evaluated blood plasma levels of women trying to conceive, finding that those with higher levels of perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) were 40% less likely to become pregnant or have a live birth.

The study was carried out by researchers from Mount Sinai, an integrated health system that includes the Icahn School of Medicine and eight hospitals in New York city. The study included 1,032 Singaporean women between the ages of 18 and 45. The goal of the study was to evaluate the link between exposure to PFAS and decreased fertility and pregnancy resulting in a live birth.

The team measured multiple PFAS found in blood plasma. However, perfluorodecanoic acid (PFDA) had the most damaging impact on fertility. Associations with infertility outcomes were also observed for perfluorooctanesulfonic acid, perfluorooctanoic acid, and perfluoroheptanoic acid. At the one-year follow-up, the women with a combination of seven PFAS in their blood were 30% to 40% less likely to have conceived and delivered a live birth.


The study’s senior author Dr. Damaskini Valvi, assistant professor of environmental medicine and public health at Icahn Mount Sinai in New York City, believes that PFAS pose multiple risks to women’s health as well as public health.

Valvi warned that “PFAS can disrupt our reproductive hormones and have been linked with delayed puberty onset and increased risks for endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome in few previous studies. What our study adds is that PFAS may also decrease fertility in women who are generally healthy and are naturally trying to conceive.”

The effects of PFAS not only have an impact on women trying to conceive, but Valvi explains that these chemicals can be transferred during pregnancy.

“We also know that PFAS exposure begins in utero and transfers from the mother to the fetus, as many PFAS have been detected in cord blood, the placenta, and breast milk. Preventing exposure to PFAS is therefore essential to protect women’s health as well as the health of their children,” Valvi said.


PFAS are essentially impossible to escape and are found in thousands of products that are used every day. These toxic chemicals exist in the environment, our food and water sources, and products such as food packaging, cardboard, tape, cookware, cosmetics, and insecticides and cannot be broken down, continuing to accumulate in the environment and in our bodies.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is aware of the dangers of “forever chemicals” and that they are linked to an increased risk for developmental delays and poor growth, certain types of cancer, immune suppression, and can disrupt hormones.

Nathan Cohen, Ph.D., is a postdoctoral research fellow with the Department of Environmental Medicine and Public Health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and co-author of the study.

“Our study strongly implies that women who are planning pregnancy should be aware of the harmful effects of PFAS and take precautions to avoid exposure to this class of chemicals, especially when they are trying to conceive,” Cohen said. “Our findings are important because they add to the growing body of knowledge implicating PFAS in the development of adverse health conditions, with children being especially vulnerable.”

While human studies are limited, this research confirms what other studies have found. According to the Environmental Working Group(EWG), PFAS are detectable in the bloodstream of every American and are associated with reduced sperm count, low testosterone levels, preeclampsia, reduced mammary gland development, and reduced fertility.

Earlier this month the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that the Biden-Harris administration proposed a national drinking water standard for six PFAS in an effort to fight pollution and protect communities and would require public water systems to monitor for these chemicals.